praying in interviews, retaliation for asking for a raise, and more

It’s mini answer Monday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Praying at interviews … and a law firm with a resident chaplain

I walked into an interview for a paralegal position at a law firm, and on the receptionist’s desk was the Ten Commandments. No big deal, right? I thought maybe the receptionist put it there for herself. But then a man comes out and introduces himself as the law firm’s chaplain and proceeds to ask myself and the other two paralegals if we would like to be lead in prayer. The other two ladies chime in with a zealous “YES!” and we proceed to pray about having a successful day. At this point, I’m freaking out. Now I have nothing against religion — I believe it’s a lot like sexual orientation. It’s a personal decision and I would never dream of questioning anyone on their chosen religious beliefs or sexual preferences. But I do believe NEITHER belong in the workplace. So after I met the chaplain, I seriously considered walking out and just stating that this job isn’t the right fit for me. But pretty quickly, the woman interviewing me called me back. She proceeded to lead my interview with another prayer, and then the attorney came in halfway through the interview to listen in. He also asks if we’ve prayed. At this point, I was trying to make the process as short as possible because there is no way I would be comfortable in that working environment. The interview also ended with a prayer. It should be noted that in their job advertisement they did not mention that they were a faith-based law firm and they did not advertise a starting salary range, but their offered salary at the interview was insultingly low and not negotiable.

What happened here? What’s the appropriate response? Isn’t this borderline illegal? And am I wrong in thinking that even if I was very religious, 3 prayers within one hour would severely affect my work performance and turn potential clients off? If they call me back for a second interview, should I find a way to politely tell them why I would decline?

This is so bizarre that I questioned whether it was real, but the letter came from someone who I’ve corresponded with in the past, so …

Yes, this is crazy town. It’s certaintly their prerogative if they want to run their business that way (and they might be small enough that they’re not covered by federal laws against religious discrimination), but not to state it up front in the ad so candidates can self-select out and to act like of course you’d be comfortable with this without even asking is pure insanity. And rude, frankly.

Personally, I would have left after the chaplain attempted to lead me in prayer. If they call you back, you can certainly say that you appreciate their interest but they seem to have a culture that mixes religion with work and it’s not for you.

2. How can I stay motivated at my boring retail job?

Currently, I am a college student, scheduled to graduate in six months. I have my hands full between school, a part-time (unpaid) internship, and my part- time retail job. My internship and school are going very well. What I am struggling with is my part-time retail job. I have worked there for nearly seven years, and I make barely above minimum wage. I am very burned out from being there for so long, partially because I have never managed to move up from a sales associate position to assistant manager — those opportunities rarely come around and are usually offered to people with more open availability — but also, the repetitiveness of the it all, and the low wages. The work isn’t challenging or rewarding, and I am doing the exact same tasks every day. I no longer have the motivation to keep myself busy during my entire shift, as my managers would like me to do. They have told me my failure to keep myself constantly busy at work is a problem. I feel badly about this. I am rather unhappy there, but I would still like to be able to make this last until I graduate and get a higher- paying job. I feel as though getting a different part-time job would be more stressful than anything, as I require a certain amount of flexibility with my hours that my current job offers. Also, I do not know if that would cause an odd gap in my work history on a resume.

I really want to find new ways to keep myself energized and motivated at work so I can become a better worker and less miserable at work. Any advice you can give me would be appreciated.

The best reason I can give you to continue to do a good job at work is integrity. You are being paid to do a job. You’re accepting money for that job. As long as you continue to accept your employer’s money, you owe it to them (and to yourself, because again, integrity) to do the job the way they’re asking you to do it. Do you want to be the type of person who slacks off (and who potentially becomes known for slacking off), or do you want to be someone who’s awesome at what she does, even when it’s not especially exciting?

Plus, a job that you’ve been at seven years should be a great reference for you. Future prospective managers are going to be interested to talk with the employer who worked with you for so long. It would be a shame to squander a good reference just because the work is repetitive — and given your managers’ talk with you, it sounds like that’s already happening and you need to correct it while you still have a window to.

3. Is there a target on my back because I asked for a raise?

I have been at my current job for 15 months and have recently asked for a raise. I backed up my request with a list for the new products I designed for the company (that have sold) and during my lunch/review the boss and manager gave me only 4’s and 5’s on a 1-5 scale (5=best).

Since being denied a raise for the usual reasons of corporate poverty, I am afraid now I have a target on my back. Had I even got a measly 1%, the issue would have gone away. Not to get paranoid, but I am afraid the boss may be thinking that because I didn’t get the raise, I will be disappointed and look for a new job. So now he will have to replace me before he thinks I would leave.

I do enjoy my job and I do not want to leave. I just want to earn what I am worth for my skills (I only asked for $50/week more). Do you think I have reason to worry about this?

Well, a raise request always has a subtext of “or I may leave and find it elsewhere” attached. So yes, it’s probably crossed your boss’s mind that you might be thinking about that. But replacing you based on nothing more than that is very, very unlikely.

4. Is there a protocol for interviewers?

I was wondering if there was an established protocol for conducting interviews. I am currently looking for a job in my field (finance / investment management). So far, I have had a number of interviews — phone, in person, with a recruiter/headhunter — with various organizations. My idea (and may be I am being naïve) of a well-conducted interview includes sitting down with an interviewer who then explains the position I am interviewing for, then we talk about my experience, and so on. Whereas I have come to know well what to expect and what is important in interviews with recruiters, I am very often quite baffled by the order of questions in all other kinds of interviews. Specifically, last week in a phone screen with an HR rep of a very small company, the third question was regarding my salary expectations. Another HR phone screen from another company – and this question was asked at the beginning of the conversation as well. I also just received an email from an HR rep of another (large and very respected) company and she is asking me the same question. I haven’t even talked to this person or anybody else in the company. Is this the reality job seekers should expect in this market or are these red flags?

I have also noticed that interviewers don’t want to take the time to talk about the position but rather start by asking questions right away. Very often I have to steer them towards telling me what the job is all about as the conversation goes on. Is this a good practice on behalf of interviewers?

There’s no universal rule for what interviewers should ask first and in what order. But interviewers often don’t start by talking about the position because they assume you know the basics from the job posting and that the details will come out through conversation as the interview progresses.

And in phone screens, it’s very common to ask some quick deal-breakers right up front; they have a zillion candidates to talk to, and they don’t want to waste time talking about the position if you don’t meet some basic criteria, one of which is often whether you’re in the same salary range that they are.

5. Required to work a full extra day

Can an employer require an exempt salaried professional employee to start working an additional full day (Saturday) on top of their regular ~40 hour M-F work week with no additional compensation?

Yes. You can, of course, try to negotiate a raise or other compensation, or a more flexible schedule. If they won’t budge, then you need to decide if you want the job under these new terms.

6. I’m overhearing talk of layoffs — can I use this as leverage?

I sit next to 2 change managers who are talking about massive layoffs. 25 waves, 100 per wave, to give you an idea of the scale. I’ve been overhearing these conversations for several months now. Recently, I’ve heard my group mentioned as part of the upcoming layoffs. It’s affecting my day to day, just having to listen them talk about my livelihood so nonchalantly.

Do I have any rights in terms of reporting to HR or negotiating a higher severance for having had to hear this? The layoffs are originating from the HR department, so I’m not even sure if it’s worth reporting. I don’t typically use HR as a resource, but I’d love to hear what you think.

Do you have any rights to special treatment because you’ve overheard layoffs being discussed? No. In fact, some might say that you’ve already received the special treatment — the luxury of getting to know ahead of time that you might lose your job and a heads-up that you should be job searching. But as far as reporting it as some sort of wrongdoing or asking for additional severance because of it? No.

7. Why would an employer cancel an interview — after I’d already arrived?

I was recently asked to interview for a position with an organization. The HR department gave me a list of available time slots for the HR manager and the manager of the department where I would be working. I selected a suitable time for both of us, and went to the interview. When I got there, I immediately had my interview with HR and was told that the department manager had set aside an hour to talk to me. After I finished my HR interview, I was told to wait in the reception area and that the department manager would come to get me. 15 minutes later, the HR manager said that they couldn’t find the department manager and that they would go look for her. After another 15 minutes, the HR manager came back to tell me that the department manager was in a meeting and that they would be in touch to reschedule. I was shocked. What are possible reasons that a manager would have another meeting during a mutually agreed upon time and then cancel it after I arrived? Will they even call me back to reschedule?

Reasons: Rudeness and disorganization. But primarily rudeness — since while disorganization may have led her to schedule another meeting for the same time, it was rudeness that led her not to immediately leave it and come meet with you once someone told her you were waiting.

I have no idea whether they’ll call you back to reschedule, but if you have enough other options in your job search, I’d strongly encourage you to turn down a rescheduled interview. You don’t want to work for this person.

{ 375 comments… read them below }

  1. EngineerGirl*

    But then a man comes out and introduces himself as the law firm’s chaplain and proceeds to ask myself and the other two paralegals if we would like to be lead in prayer.

    Hate to point this out, but the OP was actually asked if she wanted prayer. She had an opportunity to say “no” and didn’t. So why the outrage as someone not reading someone else’s mind? OP, you are an adult. Just say No.

    And while you may feel that there is no room in the workplace for prayer, others feel differently. Yet you are trying to force your belief systems on others.

    It seems very clear that the office is not discriminating against the OP (in making a job offer). This is a bad cultural fit. Bow out.

    1. V*

      OP seems mostly upset that that they didn’t disclose it before she went to the interview.

      There is a huge power imbalance when attending any interview and an interviewee will often feel like they have to do whatever the interviewer says/ requests.

      Perhaps they use their prayer as a means to weed out candidates who don’t subscribe to their religion, knowing that most of them will withdraw their application.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        I agree that it would have been better if it was disclosed up front. There certainly have been discussions here about other interviews where a key component wasn’t disclosed.

        Using prayer to weed out candidates is incredibly passive aggressive and dysfunctional. While possible, most people don’t operate that way. And considering some of the other things the OP noticed (and the fact that they actually have a chaplain) says that it most likely really is the way they operate.

        But really, interviews are about being honest and finding a good fit. A kind “I’d rather not, thanks” isn’t going to kill anyone. It isn’t one sided, you know.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          I meant to say that a chaplain on hand meant that they really do have prayers etc. and aren’t doing the passive aggressive thingy.

          1. Flynn*

            Sending him out to ambush newcomers is way aggressive though. All they had to do was say “and we have a chaplain available” in the interview.

            1. ew0054*

              Because anyone in that position is taken off guard and would be afraid to say ‘no’ for lose the job.

              1. Judari*

                But if praying isn’t a company you would want to be apart of why would they be afraid to “lose” that.

          2. C4T!!!*


            Based on your question I assume you’ve haven’t worked retail/hospitality where a “12 hour shift is just a half day”.
            (Assuming you are in the U.S.)

            Is this true? If so i recommend, “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich.

            Also, if true, I am jealous! ;-)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      And while you may feel that there is no room in the workplace for prayer, others feel differently. Yet you are trying to force your belief systems on others.

      Three prayers in the workplace in what was probably one hour is bizarre, by nearly anyone’s standards. And it’s very, very common for people not to feel comfortable saying, “No, I don’t want to do that” during a job interview because of the power imbalance and stress of the situation.

      I don’t see her “trying to force her beliefs” on anyone here — I don’t see where you’re coming up with that at all.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        Ah, her statement that neither sexual orientation nor religion belong in the workplace. That is forcing a belief system on how people should operate. It is basically saying “please hide who you really are and what you believe”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I took that to mean that employers shouldn’t be opining on those items, not that religious people should have to hide their religion or that anyone should have to hide their sexual orientation. Regardless, though, being gay or being religious in the workplace is a whole different matter than a workplace pushing people to pray every 20 minutes.

          1. Jessa*

            I agree, I took it to mean that if there’s a company religion it should be disclosed ahead of time. When people want to pray or whatever, that’s their business. But if you’re calling me to meet with you and you have a company chaplain and you have no idea if I’m even of the same kind of religion at all, this should be mentioned before the interviewee wastes their time.

            And yes it’s terribly hard to go “NO!” when you’re in an interview.

          2. The Snarky B*

            Side note: I hate when people talk about sexual orientation and aren’t referring to all of them. I picked up on something in the OP’s letter that made “sexual orientation” sound more like a euphemism for being LGBQ. If sexual orientation has no place at work, that also means being offended at having to hear that a woman has a husband and two kids.
            Just sayin. Oh and also, OP please don’t equate religion and sexual orientation as both being “choices.”

            Ok back to the topic :) sorry folks – hadta go there.

              1. OK then*

                My favorite reply when I hear people refer to sexual orientation as a choice is, “Oh? How old were you when you decided to be straight?” I usually get a blank stare on that one.

                1. Heather*

                  Somewhere (Upworthy, I think?) I saw a video where they asked that question of people who had said that being gay was a choice. “I never thought of it that way” was the most common answer.

                  On the one hand, I’m glad they might be willing to rethink their views. On the other, argghh. Some people just do. not. think.

                2. Ariancita*

                  Except some bigots think everyone is naturally straight, just that some people choose being gay/bi because of some type of deviance.

              2. TodC*

                I find it interesting that everyone here speaks about sexual orientation as though they are experts on the subject. Also interesting how they speak on the topic that sexual orientation is not a choice, as though that were fact instead of opinion.

                People here are posting completely baseless opinions that have been created simply because they think that they remember reading something on the topic once, or because they know someone who claims to be gay, or because it is all of the sudden quite chic in Hollywood to be gay, and therefor all of your favorite movies and TV shows are forcing you to believe that it is not only natural to be gay, but also it is good.

                So tell us, in all of your extensive, qualitative research on the topic of sexuality, is it choice for adults to seek sexual behavior toward children? Is it choice to engage in adultery? How about bestiality? Necrophilia? How about objectophilia? Are all of these natural and should be accepted by society as well?

                Perhaps you should engage you time is learning the research – from both sides of the topic.

                Oh wait, I just forgot: It is far easier to spout ignorant, arrogant opinions than it is to actually learn anything.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  The myth that sexual orientation is a choice has been promulgated by right-wing groups for years, but it flies in the face of the actual science on the issue. That said, it’s an irrelevant red herring — people deserve equal rights regardless.

                  And comparing sexual orientation to pedophilia is offensive. Please cut that kind of thing out here.

                2. TodC*

                  Wait, what?!? Promulgated by the right wing? Myth? Is this fact, or merely your opinion? Actual science? As in quantifiable, repeatable and provable experimentation? What exactly is your basis for such slanted commentary?

                  You can’t just say things and then expect people to accept it lock, stock and barrel. Show me the peer-reviewed research, and then we can have an actual conversation.

                  Furthermore, do you actually proclaim that one kind of sexual deviance is more wrong than another? By what standard do you judge this?

                  Do you have any actual provable knowledge on any of this? I ask because your choice of words might lead a rational person to believe otherwise.

                  P.S. I love the new world order in which anyone who chooses to speak a coherent opposing view is arrogantly labeled a bigot.

                3. Min*

                  Tod, I know I shouldn’t feed you and that it won’t do anyone any good, but there is something I have to say.

                  On a personal level, calling me a deviant because I love my wife is bigotry. Comparing us to criminals who abuse children or animals is beyond the pale and I thank Alison for calling you out for it.

            1. Mike C.*

              Agreed, every time I mention my wife, I’m talking about my heterosexual orientation. Folks need to remember that.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Thank you. I was going to comment on the sexual orientation thing.
              OP, it’s not a choice. Maybe you didn’t realize that; now you do.

          3. Anonymous*

            But then why wouldn’t the OP just say “politics?” I think a lot of people would get on board and support a politics-free workplace (assuming, of course, it isn’t a non-profit or similar dealing with political issues). It just seems pretty telling that she zeroed in on sexual orientation exclusively.

          4. Anonymous*

            Actually I thought the sexual orientation comparison was weird. You choose religion but not sexuality…

            I had a boss who was VERY vocal about cultural and religious issues, but our company was like a mini UN, everyone came from somewhere and we had almost every type of religious background. And STILL when he mentioned religion we all cringed. The VP would usually crack a joke and tell him to shut it. The boss admitted to me he was a BAD manager :)

        2. fposte*

          Expressing a belief is not “forcing a belief system on how people should operate.” If you think it is, then you’re saying that the only acceptable expression is either silence or agreement, and I would doubt that you would feel that way and still hang out around here :-).

          1. Anonymous*

            LGBTQ rights are a trickier subject though. In nearly half the states, they have no discrimination protection. So when someone “expresses a belief” like the OP’s – where, I think it’s important to note, she didn’t say she was opposed to discussion of gay rights in the office, but rather the sexual preferences THEMSELVES – it can be a lot more terrifying to someone who might just want to make small talk about their weekend plans with their partner of any gender.

          2. fposte*

            I’m responding to Engineer Girl and quoting her take on the OP’s post, which wasn’t about the LGBTQ comment.

        3. Lily in NYC*

          I feel like you are reading this differently than everyone else and are not really getitng the point the OP is trying to make.

        4. Katie the Fed*

          Erm, she didn’t say they COULDN’T pray, or that they couldn’t reveal their sexual orientation. She didn’t enforce those rules. She just stated she prefers a workplace where those things are kept separate. Having a different opinion =/= forcing others to adhere.

          1. Anonymous*

            But if she ever was in a position to enforce those rules, LGBTQ people would have no discrimination protection under the law (in many states), whereas religious people would. And it’s kind of messed up that she could choose to work in a place where gay people have to hide their partners for fear of being fired. That’s what people are taking issue with, not just her opinion as an isolated thing.

            1. Anonymous*

              (Well, okay, people are also definitely taking issue with her opinion as an isolated thing because it’s bigoted, but since this is a career blog, that’s likely the major legal issue at stake)

    3. Anonymous*

      So, if the job interviewer asked the applicant to perform a sexual act, it’s not outrageous because the applicant has an opportunity to say “no”?
      Uh-uh. It’s be sexual harassment.
      This is religious harassment, which (assuming more than 15 employees) is illegal.

      1. Just a Reader*

        Keeping religion out of the workplace in an overt way isn’t forcing beliefs on others…it’s creating a NORMAL working environment where people can feel comfortable.

        That’s not stifling religion or forcing beliefs on someone.

        Hijacking meetings for prayer is, though, as is asking a total stranger if they’d like to pray with you in the workplace.

        1. fposte*

          I think that’s overstating, though. In a workplace where prayer is the norm, praying during meetings isn’t “hijacking,” and there’s no definable “normal” in anything, let alone workplaces. And I can get Engineer Girl’s point there–if it’s coercive to suggest that a co-worker should never acknowledge being LGBTQ in the workplace, why wouldn’t it be coercive to suggest that a co-worker should never acknowledge being religious in the workplace?

          I think that negotiating contrasting and even contradictory beliefs is one of the responsibilities of life in a diverse society. They’re not always going to be able to find a place of harmony, but most of the time individual differences are actually pretty survivable. If it’s important to that workplace that everybody be on the same page about something, whether it be marching in the Pride parade, praying during meetings, or sharing a bacon breakfast, it’s helpful and professional for them to make that as clear as possible to prospective employees, but as long as they’re doing it legally, it’s still their prerogative.

          1. Just a Reader*

            I do think that kicking off an interview with prayer, when you have no idea about the interviewee’s feelings on the topic, is hijacking.

            In a workplace where everyone has bought off on prayer as an acceptable part of the culture, it’s fine.

            I do think there is a BIG difference between allowing people to freely express their faith in the workplace and creating a culture where participation is expected. They’re two completely different scenarios.

            1. KellyK*

              Yeah, I agree, and I say that as a Christian. If I weren’t applying to work at an explicitly Christian organization, I’d find that off-putting.

              As a side note, three prayers in an hour gives me a “look how pious we are” kind of vibe. I mean, I know Sunday school teachers who don’t pray that much!

              1. Elizabeth West*

                LOL that occurred to me too. It seems overexaggerated. I find that when people are that in-your-face about something, they’re either trying to recruit you or exclude you.

              2. Kelly O*

                Every time I see Christians who do stuff like that, I sort of want to hand them a little card with Matthew 6:5-6 printed on it. (Bible Quote Follows)

                And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

                Because seriously you do not get bonus XP for praying out loud in public places. It’s not like there is some big punch card up in Heaven, with angels in charge of keeping tally of how many people hear you. (Oh, look, Elizabeth prayed in front of 10 people at her office this morning! 20 more and she gets a Fast Pass at the pearly gates!)

                1. EngineerGirl*

                  Wow, everyone sure is extrapolating on just a few pieces of info.

                  These comments are really outrageous. Assigning motives and agendas to people based on what? Not on the data provided.

                2. KellyK*

                  Replying to EngineerGirl.

                  Three prayers in an hour reads as showy and “holier than thou” to me. I’ve worked at specifically religious organizations (a Christian camp for kids with a daily chapel service) that didn’t have anywhere near that quantity of organized prayer, nor did people ask to pray with me when I interviewed.

                  It may be that three prayers in an hour interview just strikes them as a normal amount of prayer in a religious work environment, but that’s not how it comes across to a lot of people.

                  I don’t think that’s a judgmental extrapolation from the given data, or that I’m picking on them.

              3. Job seeker*

                I would have a hard time understanding someone wanting to pray 3 times in an interview also. I also am a Christian and believe in prayer but this seems very strange. What were they praying about?

                I believe every place I have ever worked knew my values and Christian faith by how I treated everyone and tried to lived. That was not something we talked about usually but my values are Christian. I do respect everyone though and this particular office does not know what beliefs a job seeker holds. But, I wonder what they were praying about in an interview. I don’t know what in the world I would have done in this situation.

              4. L.A.*

                I DO work in an explicitly Roman Catholic organization and we don’t even begin interviews with prayer. Even when our priests are interviewing people – unless it’s a lunch interview during which they will generally say a brief prayer to themselves, but there aren’t 3 prayers anywhere in the process ever!

            2. fposte*

              Right; my point is that in a workplace where participation is expected, it’s not a hijack. But that’s mostly a terminological point–I still think it’s a thing you shouldn’t do to a job candidate who hasn’t been alerted that this is a workplace where participation is expected.

    4. Kelly O*

      I am a fairly religious person, and I personally find the “three prayers” thing more than a bit excessive. I actually tend to prefer work environments where people don’t feel led to go on about their religious preferences quite that loudly (which I realize is part of the problem I have with about half my family members.)

      While I can understand why a company would want to be open about the faith of its executives and employees, I think they are also sending a very clear signal that they only want people like them in the office. Someone of another faith would probably not be comfortable in that office (I am imagining some fairly conservative, evangelical people I know who make Big Deals about starting and ending their workday with prayer.)

      The OP also needs to remember that the interview process is a two-way street. You’re looking at the company as much as they’re looking at you. If something in an interview makes you uncomfortable you’re by no means required to accept additional interviews or offers.

      I know people who do this kind of thing and only mean well by it. They’re in privately-held companies, sometimes fairly small, and for them its a way to “make a stand” in the world. When you try to present another idea, it’s perceived as being not firmly grounded in your faith (even when you start reminding them about all the admonitions to not pray out in the open as the Pharisees did. They get antsy about Pharisees for some reason.)

      For the record, I start and end my days with prayer and I pray a lot at my desk. But I do it silently and I’m not asking others to join in. I’m part of a leadership train the trainer program at my church, and part of what we’ve been discussing is how the church is perceived by many as a Country Club for people who look like us. This company is really perpetuating that, adding the layer of doing things so loudly and frequently at work that they make anyone not “in the know” uncomfortable. That is not at all what my Jesus was about.

      With apologies for the religious references. I try to keep things neutral here, but this just gets me up on my soapbox.

      1. Chinook*

        I like how Kelly O pointed out that interviews are a 2 way street. I am religious too and, even if they had said they were a faithful based company, I would not have expected that many prayers (heck, the religious group I meet with biweekly only does 2 per evening). I would take this as a red flag that this isn’t the right cultural fit for me the same as if I heard employees yelling at each other in the background or heavy metal playing over the intercom (I like Metallica but couldn’t work with it all day).

        Now, if they only showed you those side of their company after you were hired, that is a different kettle of fish.

        I want to add that freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion. Just like freedom of speech, it protects you from the government punishing you based on your religion or from the government creating it’s own religion (which happened in the UK under Henry VIII but is no longer mandated by the state their). If the government banned private business from being religious based, they would be overstepping their bounds, IMHO. Instead, let the market decide if it is appropriate.

        And you’re right, Kelly O, about Christian religious types getting nervous when you compare them to Pharasee’s.

        1. annie*

          I agree with you two – I consider myself to be religious but I would not want to work for a company where that was a large part of their culture unless it was somehow directly related to the company’s mission. (I can see perhaps a social enterprise where that could be related.) For me, my religion is how I live my life day to day and I hope that I can be a good example by how I treat others and behave, but public praying is just uncomfortable for me outside of a church or religious situation.

          At my current company, we have a few times prayed at work, but it has been very rare and always more of a “moment of silence” situation in response to a terrible tragedy. For example, after the Boston bombing, some of us who were at lunch at the moment said a very quick prayer together, and once when we learned a former coworker had passed away, we started our meeting with a moment of silence. But like I said, very rare, and more in the context of acknowledging something terrible has happened.

      2. Job seeker*

        Kelly O, I have prayed before my day started at a job too. Always, quietly and in my car never in front of others. I pray throughout my day, but always quietly. I believe in prayer in every situation of my life, but to do this in this kind of setting is so unbelievable.

    5. Vicki*

      “The other two ladies chime in with a zealous “YES!” and we proceed to pray about having a successful day.”

      I get the impression the OP was in a mild state of shock.

      1. Jamie*

        I would have been – its shocking if not expecting it and I could easily see falling into stunned silence.

        And I was thinking what Job Seeker asked..what were they praying about? I’ve prayed in interviews, silently and in my head…along the lines of please let the tour end soon because my feet are killing me, please let me stifle this yawn, please let this go well/end soon because I want this job/wouldn’t take it on a bet…that kind of thing.

        I can’t imagine and am quite curious about the content.

        I have to say this concept is so completely foreign to me I’d be furious that it wasn’t disclosed prior to the interview. Not disclosing it bespeaks a arrogance that they think this is normal and not worth noting – no consideration of the waste of a candidates time.

        Whe the OP researched the firm did the web site show a religious bent? I’d think a firm so adamant about this would want it to be part of their public profile.

  2. Legal Eagle*

    1. This is very bizarre! Be glad that you were alerted to how the firm works during your interview, so you can look elsewhere. I would take a moment to examine your own particular stance that work or sexual orientation have no place at work whatsoever. If someone is Buddhist or Christian or atheist, must they hide that at work? If someone is in a hetero- or homo-sexual relationship, must they hide that at work?

    I worked at a place where we had group prayer to start the day, and I thought it was wonderful! But it was a Christian non-profit with a cross in the logo, so any job candidate had notice of the culture beforehand.

    2. Each individual aspect of your life cannot satisfy all your needs. Your retail job gives you money for now, and not much else. That’s okay! Your valid needs for challenging and rewarding work will need to come from somewhere else for now. Maybe your classes, internship, a good book, or a documentary on netflix.

    Maybe after you graduate, you will find a job that provides all three. In fact, I think future employers will respect that you worked at the same place for 7 years while getting your education. If those employers call, they should receive glowing references about you. Don’t stop so close to the finish line!

    1. Chinook*

      OP #2 – You have to remember that there is nothing wrong with a job that pays the bills. As AAM sats, it shows good character to show up everyday and give 100% too a job that doesn’t excite you. Plus, you can also take pride in doing a job well. Too misquote Martin Luther King, if you are going to be a janitor, be the best darn janitor they have ever seen.

  3. EngineerGirl*

    #1 again. Just a question. Would an internet search have revealed the Law Firms preferences in regard to religion? If so, there should have been no surprise on their actions.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think that’s true. If prayer is such a huge part of your culture that you’re praying 3 times in one hour during a job interview, you need to disclose that front and center in a job posting, so that candidates aren’t blindsided by it if they don’t happen to seek it out in a Google search.

      I really don’t see how you can defend this — pressuring someone into praying when (a) you have no idea whether they’d want to, (b) in a situation where they’re not going to be expecting it (work), and (c) when they’re at a power disadvantage is not okay by any standard I know of. It’s beyond the pale.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        We will have to agree to disagree.

        I think your biases are affecting how you see this. How is this different than ordering drinks for all, or demanding people dress a certain way (beyond their salary), or yelling, etc. All of these have been discussed in the past and yet none of them have received such strong criticism as this one.

        1. Jessa*

          It’s not. Per se. But it should be disclosed. Some people not only do not believe in prayer but believe it should NEVER be done to or with someone without asking permission. And that asking permission in such a power loaded situation is wrong because what happens then? The two other interviewees who were happy with it and the company would make the “no” person VERY uncomfortable.

          The point is this is such a polarising issue that if it were mentioned up front people would simply self-select out if they wanted to.

        2. fposte*

          EG, I actually would think it was pretty weird if people ordered alcoholic beverages for an interviewee and had several rounds of alcohol during an in-office hourlong interview.

          I’m not particularly bothered by the OP’s interview office running its business the way it does, as it is, given its size, its business, very literally. But it is out of the ordinary, and I think it would actually help them as well as their applicants if they gave people an indication in hiring that this was such a keen focus in their office. I suspect that an applicant wouldn’t actually know that this religious focus was a possibility (since they probably wouldn’t even realize it was a small enough firm for it to be legal) until both sides had invested a fair bit of time in the hiring process–why not note “Christian Values” prominently in your ad, hiring info, whatever, so that there’s more chance for self-selection, both in and out, beforehand?

          1. Bwmn*

            This is exactly what I was thinking – if they added “Christian Values” in the job posting, there would be both self-selection but also alert the candidate to investigate more into what that means. Does it mean workplace prayer? Will it impact health insurance options/days off?

            I work with a number of Christian nonprofits now – and some appear to have a stronger Christian character than others. As a non-Christian, there are some of these organizations I feel pretty confident would never be a good professional fit for me – and others that might. However, if an interview with any of these organizations started with prayer, it wouldn’t be a surprise and I’d attribute it to my misperception on how the organization embodied religion.

            Also – let’s take this in an opposite direction. Imagine there’s a posting for an accountant and all it says in the add is the size of the company, style of book keeping, etc. Interviewee shows up to learn it’s a pornography studio or sex toy company. I imagine a number of candidates might feel misled and uncomfortable. However, adding “adult entertainment” in the job add immediately clues someone in of the overall nature of the company.

            1. Yvi*

              It was my understanding (and I am not US-American, the term is never used here) that “Christian values” refers to values such as empathy and charitability, things that are not actually unique to Christianity and especially not linked to whether people pray at work.

              1. Nichole*

                As I understand it (Midwest US), ‘Christian values’ is often a way of indicating social and Protestant religious conservativism rather than being a literal term. It doesn’t encompass the whole scope of what a Christian necessarily might look or act like.

                1. Heather*

                  Yeah, it’s been hijacked by evangelicals as an in-group marker instead of an indicator of certain values. Not to mention that Jesus wasn’t real big into hating people for their sexual orientation, or believing that the poor were poor because they hadn’t been favored by God. If you’re going by what Jesus actually taught, my completely-agnostic self is more Christian than many of those who describe themselves that way.

              2. Bwmn*

                I think that Christian values applies to a lot of different things for different people – but if in a job ad (that was not for a specifically religious profession) mentioned “Christian values” – I’d think that it was a workplace that involves religion (as opposed to staying separate from religion) and should probably investigate more/ask questions.

                Basically as a US idiom or coded phrase it means more than just values of empathy.

                1. Emily*

                  I agree. Consider that a non-denominational organization seeking generally empathetic and charitable candidates would not use the phrase “Christian values” in a job listing because a) interpreted literally, it would read as excluding anyone who had those characteristics but practiced another faith; and b) interpreted idiomatically, it would turn off those, including some Christians, seeking a secular workplace.

              3. Chinook*

                Yvi, I am with you that I would have interpreted a job posting stating “Christian values” as meaning a certain outlook on life but not praying at the beginning of every meeting. I don’t know how they could have worded a job posting as to make this fact known.

            2. Lore*

              Also, think about if you showed up to an interview and not only learned it was a pornography studio but were invited onto the set immediately. I’m deeply nonreligious, and more or less okay with most porn but both of these situations seem to draw one deeply into very specific aspects of office culture in a way that is outside the bounds of expectations for an interview situation.

              1. Bwmn*

                Yeah….I think both are situations where a considerable number of applicants would like a heads up.

                That being said – for all applicants applying to various religiously affiliated organizations – it’s always a good reminder to make sure if there are any issues where religion might impact working there (such as what work sponsored health insurance might not cover).

                1. the gold digger*

                  I worked for a Fortune 100 company that had nothing to do with religion, yet when I started, birth control pills were not covered. I am proud to think that it was my letter to the head of benefits pointing out that covering viagra and not covering BCP was not exactly fair that changed the policy.

                  (I also got them to cover dental implants.)

                  (I should do this professionally.)

            3. V*

              Good point… I’d also add…

              Let’s say they interviewee was asked to pray to Allah or the Hindu god Vishnu, or maybe this was an atheistic office and each day the employees had discussions ridiculing all religions and invited the interviewee. Would that be okay?! Of course not.

              Certain things must be disclosed up front and a strong religious culture that could impact your decision to interview MUST be one of them.

              1. Chinook*

                But if I showed up to an interview where they had discussions ridiculing any religion or culture, I would be grateful to see that side of them before agreeing to work for them. I see any interview like a first date and sometimes you find out really fast that that cute guy you met in line at the coffee shop only shows his hand as a bigot or a religious fanatic after 15 minutes of conversation. At that point, I would say thanks but no thanks and leave.

                1. Original Dan*

                  Ah, yes. That’s why I tell everyone I meet in line at the coffee shop about my porcelain cat collection. I get some weird looks, but at least now I know that I will never have another weird first date…

              2. EngineerGirl*

                I actually had this happen at a 501c3 I was working with. At the start of the annual meeting they wanted to pray to the Hawaiian gods as a sign of unity. I refused as it would violate my faith. Some were very upset at me for refusing to take part in the unity ceremony. But I could not violate by beliefs.

                And that’s a point I wanted to make. I was blind sided by the request. But as an adult, I said no (nicely) and owned that decision. But I didn’t get all “how dare they!”. I just said no and stepped back.

                Perhaps that is why I’m getting upset at others. I have most definitely been in similar situations. But I didn’t go blaming anyone for “forcing” me into something. I just said no and moved on.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  It sounds like you already worked there, thus making the power dynamic different.

                  Also, unless this was an organization that was explicitly oriented toward these gods anyway (and I can imagine an organization that might be!), they probably shouldn’t have done that either. And certainly no one should have been upset at you for politely declining. They were in the wrong if they said anything nasty to you about it. Just because someone treated you badly doesn’t mean other employers should get to treat other people badly just to even the score.

                2. V*

                  I have been in situations like this too, but NOT during a job interview.

                  I’ve volunteered for plenty of organizations that have a strong religious affiliation and have stepped away during the prayer part because I felt uncomfortable, but that is a completely different situation…. I knew I wouldn’t be judged by it, and even if I was, they aren’t going to “fire” a volunteer because I was still doing them a favor.

                3. V*

                  Also EngineerGirl, I’ve noticed that you keep mentioning being an “adult”. I find it a little offensive to all of us that are disagreeing with you. I’m not sure how this situation/advice given would be any different if the OP was a 14 year old interviewing for a first job on a paper route as opposed to a 50 year old interviewing for CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

                4. EngineerGirl*

                  Actually, I was doing work for them. And no, this was a land trust not a cultural thing. so you ate wrong there. I’ve had similar situations at work – in one case my manager wanted us to take EST classes. Since I already worked there I will say that I had far more to lose.

                  By “being an adult” I’m saying own your decisions and own your lifestyle. And own the consequences that come with that. No one can make you pray, and saying “they forced me” is a victim mentality. And I do find that childish.

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  The complaint here is not that they “made” her pray. The complaint is that they treated a guest rudely by putting her in a situation that most people would find over-the-top and potentially offensive, without warning, and while she was at a power disadvantage that would cause many people to feel uncomfortable.

            4. ThursdaysGeek*

              But wouldn’t putting “Christian values” in the job description run afoul of the anti-discrimination laws?

              I almost see this as a way around those laws: we’ll hire anyone who is qualified, but the non prayers will self-select out, yay!

              1. fposte*

                It’s likely that they’re too small to be covered by those laws, otherwise what they’re doing in the post is problematic as well.

              2. TychaBrahe*

                They’re not refusing to hire you if you aren’t Christian. It’s telling you about the environment you’ll be working in before you apply.

                My mother’s a doctor who is chief of her department at a Catholic hospital. She’s Jewish. At the end of visiting hours, a prayer is read over the hospital paging system. She’s not required to pray, but she doesn’t get to complain about prayers that aren’t her faith, because she knew going in what sort of environment it was. (It was pretty funny to see all the Carmelite sisters in attendance when she did the aliyah in honor of the 10th anniversary of her adult Bat Mitzvah.)

        3. Victoria Nonprofit*

          I really think your biases are the ones showing up here.

          First, Alison and commenters have voiced strong objections to the various situations you list. I don’t actually remember any of those coming up during an interview, which would call for even stronger objections.

          Moreover, prayer is fundamentally different than yelling, clothing and (for many people) drinking alcohol. Those are all the details of life, whereas for many people of faith prayer is fundamental to self-understanding, community life, and spiritual belief. Being asked to engage in a religious act that I’d not your own is significant in a way that choosing what to wear isn’t.

          1. Heather*

            Yeah. I’d like to know what her reaction would be if the prayers were to Allah and there were passages from the Koran on the receptionist’s desk. Still the same thing as having a dress code?

            1. Chinook*

              Yes – I would feel the same way if I was met by an Iman, the prayers were from the Koran and there were religious quotes on the wall instead of pictures. I would also ask them if there are issues with them working with people of other faiths to see if my biases are judging them. Would I still work there? That would depend on how they answered my straight forward question.

              1. A Bug!*

                Just FYI, I think the word you’re looking for is Imam, which would be more analogous to a chaplain than Iman, even though they’re both words within the Islamic faith.

                (Alternatively: if I went in for an interview and was greeted by Iman the supermodel, which came to my mind first, I think I wouldn’t make it through the interview for all my excited gibberish.)

            2. JuliB*

              As a devout Christian who prays a lot, I would like to work in an environment that was more accepting of religion.

              That said, if an interviewer asked me if I wanted to join them in praying to Allah, or Buddha (some Buddhists do regard him as a deity – a minority, but still…), I would thank them but decline. If a Christian asked if I wanted to join in, I *might* but might not.

              Either way, it would be good for me to see this, and for them to see me as we both really are. If the Muslims liked me and extended an offer, I would certainly consider it, all things considered.

              But yes, 3 times is a bit excessive and makes me wonder what the day to day environment truly is at that place. I would think it a bit odd too.

        4. Anonymous*

          Because ordering drinks or dressing a certain way or yelling aren’t covered by EEOC law. Religion is.

          1. Meg*

            Only with organizations with more than what, 15 employees? Less than that, EEOC doesn’t apply.

            1. fposte*

              Though that’s federal–state EEOs can have a lower threshold, and some don’t even have a minimum.

        5. Elizabeth West*

          I think if the OP was offered and accepted this job, it would then be incumbent on her to pray with them every day. It’s obviously a HUGE part of the culture of this workplace. She could very well feel pressured to go along even if they don’t state it as a requirement.

          We all know how it is with office culture–there are some workplaces that don’t give a hoot whether you join the cookie party or whatever, and some that will ostracize you if you don’t. Not joining in could negatively affect her employment. It doesn’t sound like the kind of place where she could comfortably refuse.

          Even if they’re not required to, if it’s that important to them, I believe it would have been best for them to disclose it in some way–“We are a faith-based organization,” or some such, so applicants don’t waste the firm’s time or their own.

      2. Flynn*

        BTW your previous posts about praying in the workplace have been very helpful. I’m not in a particularly religious culture, but I’ve been to two events in the last year where they closed or opened with a prayer. The first one I didn’t say anything, because it was the people who’d run around on their own time to organise a lunch, and it was a semi-nonwork event and they probably felt that saying grace was fine. And I hadn’t run into the problem since high school, where I seethed through mass assembly prayers (non-religious school) once a year. The second one was hugely ironic, as it was a closing prayer for a newly established LGBTQA/Ally group, completely official and very awkward. Thanks to reading your posts, I went and mentioned it being awkward afterward, and they were very grateful – they had just been running on automatic/trying to be inclusive and hadn’t thought it might be difficult for people (to which I must facepalm a bit, as queer rights and religion do not have the happiest history).

        1. Kelly O*

          For the record, there are Christians who have no problem with LGBT individuals or groups, and there are Christians in the LGBT community.

          I just want to clear up the idea that the two are mutually exclusive.

          1. Chinook*

            Thank you, Kelly O, for pointing that out. Being religious doesn’t mean being anti-LBGT. I was taught by a very religious grandmother compassion and love are important and that nobody in their right mind would choose to be gay because of the pain and isolation it would cause them if the truth came out, so it must mean God made them that way and who are we to judge what God did. But, the moment I mention I am Catholic, stereotypes and biases start showing in others.

            1. Anonymous*

              I think a lot of people might take issue with the idea that “nobody in their right mind would choose to be gay.” Plenty of LGBTQ folks are actively proud of their life and wouldn’t wish it any other way, despite the pain and isolation that comes from others’ bigoted views.

              1. Ariancita*

                +1. I understand the sentiment was about acceptance, but that way of thinking about it is sort of over-egging the pudding. Reminds me of a former boss who told me that he would never want his child to have an interracial marriage–not because he thinks there is anything wrong with it, but because other people do and it would cause unnecessary grief for them. Yeah, my family is a product of interracial marriage, and I was in an interracial relationship at the time.

                1. Anonymous*

                  Yikes. Yeah, I’m in an interracial marriage and if someone said something like that to me, I’d think, “What you wouldn’t wish for me to be with the love of my life?!” And I’m sure many LGBTQ people feel the same way about people implying their live is a burden (whether in regard to their partner or whatever aspect of their life they love and wouldn’t exist if they were straight.)

              2. Anonymous*

                I understand the sentiment better coming from someone of an older generation, though. Gay people still face a lot of discrimination, but it was even worse, much worse, fifty or sixty or seventy years ago. That doesn’t mean that the gay people who lived through those eras can’t still be proud of their identities, but there were almost certainly times when they must have thought, “this would all be so much easier if I were straight.” I think one of the things to be proudest of, actually, is to face adversity and come through it stronger. Nevertheless, it’s a rare person who will seek out adversity for that purpose.

          2. Laura L*

            “For the record, there are Christians who have no problem with LGBT individuals or groups, and there are Christians in the LGBT community.”

            Absolutely! Lots of individual Christians and some denominations are accepting and welcoming.

            Unfortunately, there quite a few politically influential sects that are not.

    2. Flynn*

      How is “we’re going to lead you in a prayer the instant you walk in” in any way a reasonable expectation? Much less three times?

      It’s not like a large group, with some kind of speech or event (which I would also object to, but religious people tend to do it automatically at these sort of occasions elsewhere, so it’s a more understandable mistake). It’s the interviewee, and two other people, being personally told that they have to pray now, or [implied subtext] lose the job and be wrong and upset the other two people.

      And saying no is very difficult, not only because of the power imbalance, but because a) do you just stand awkwardly by and sit through a cringeworthy prayer anyway? or b) do they not do it out of respect for your feelings, and therefore you are the bad person for ruining everyone’s special prayer time?

      If you went to visit someone’s house, say to drop a kid off for playtime, and you knew they were religious, would you expect to be stopped at the gate and asked to pray, and then again at the front door, and then asked again once you got inside? Sure, it may be their ‘right’, but it’s the sort of thing most people would mention in advance.

      1. -X-*

        “It’s the interviewee, and two other people, being personally told that they have to pray now, or [implied subtext] lose the job and be wrong and upset the other two people.”

        I’d be worried about a society in which people have to pray or not get good jobs. But a few companies acting that way doesn’t bother me much – it’s their business and their problem in terms of reducing the pool of good applicants they can draw from.

        What bothers me is them not being more upfront about in their job postings – they’re wasting people’s time if it really is a job requirement.

        And frankly, a prayer request in an interview is (to me) so extreme that I don’t think I’d have any problem resisting, even given the power imbalance. At least in the U.S. So the response would be “No thank you” or (if I was feeling bold and annoyed at them wasting my time) “No thank you, I’m not religious.”

        I’d have problems resisting if they asked me things that were only slightly strange, but pray? I’m not religious and won’t fake it for a job unless I was in dire dire straits for money.

        Maybe I’m just trying to sound like an internet tough guy, but I think a lot of people would do well to try to be a little more tough/self-confident. Don’t get swept up in stuff you clearly don’t want to do. Practice being assertive, or at least practice techniques of deflect unreasonable demands until you can assess them more carefully.

        And especially stop being afraid of “awkward” except perhaps for people you want to please and will have an ongoing relationship with. Once it became clear that the OP wouldn’t want to work there, there is no need to worry about awkwardness. Just say “No, thank you.” If that’s awkward, that’s their problem for not being upfront and wasting time. Try to be less sheepish and more forthright.

        1. Flynn*

          My point there was mostly that even if an internet search had reveleaed religiousity, that doesn’t reasonably correlate to prayer interviews.

          And yes, this is exactly one of those situations calling for an “and then I gave them the finger in a clever way and walked out” punchline.

          The apparent enthusiasm of the other two interviewees makes it much more awkward though.

      2. the gold digger*

        If you went to visit someone’s house, say to drop a kid off for playtime, and you knew they were religious, would you expect to be stopped at the gate and asked to pray

        Sort of related. A friend of my husband’s visited. When we had dinner, the friend and his family said grace before we ate. What ticked me off was not that they said grace – the friend and I are the same denomination – but that he did so without even asking if we minded. It is a bit presumptuous to be a guest in someone’s home and to pray (out loud) without even asking.

        He also went into our cupboards to get snacks for his kids without asking.

        I wouldn’t mind it if it were someone I liked, but when someone I don’t like helps himself to my graham crackers and Good Cereal, it ticks me off.

        1. JuliB*

          “It is a bit presumptuous to be a guest in someone’s home and to pray (out loud) without even asking.”

          Wow. Just wow. I would never consider asking someone’s permission to thank God for the food placed before me. The only thing presumptuous would be if I were to say ‘C’mon Goldie, fold your hands and bow your head so we can get started’, but otherwise it’s just living my life the way I am called to.

          1. The gold digger*

            Really? You would just start praying out loud at dinner at someone else’s house? Without even saying, “I’d like to say grace if you don’t mind?”

            I found it very rude. When you are in someone else’s house, you play by their rules.

            (AND he ate almost half of a three-pound steak by himself! We thought we were going to have leftovers!)

            1. JuliB*

              No, I wouldn’t, but I don’t think that whether to pray is ‘playing by someone’s rules’. What, would you have said ‘no, we’d prefer you didn’t’?

              I’m not sure how someone could think that praying is rude, regardless of the location.

              1. FreeThinkerTX*

                I would certainly say, “No, I’d prefer you didn’t.” If prayer is that important to you – and not to anyone else in my atheist household – then you can pray silently to yourself before you dig in to the feast that I have provided.

              2. Min*

                I think the fact that you say you wouldn’t do it shows that you know it is non-standard behavior.

                I’m with Goldie, I would find it inconsiderate for someone to come into my house and pray out loud (without being prompted to do so) at my dinner table, just as it would be inconsiderate of me if I were to start eating while others prayed if I was invited to dinner at a home where grace is routinely said before a meal.

                1. Jamie*

                  Agree. I don’t think most reasonable people would object if someone silently owed their head and prayed silently, but I do find it rude to pray aloud in someone else’s home unless you are 100% sure it’s welcome. It’s the assumption that’s rude, not asking. IMO.

              3. the gold digger*

                If he had asked, I would have said, “Of course.” What annoyed me was that he was so presumptuous.

                But I can also see FreeThinker’s point. I would find it rude of someone to ask a known atheist if it was OK to pray before a meal at the atheist’s home. When you are a guest, you respect the host’s traditions. And if the host’s beliefs are so abhorrent to you, then don’t accept the invitation.

                It’s not the praying that’s the issue so much as it is the assumption that everyone else at the table will share your beliefs and practices and that you can impose your practices on your host.

                1. FreeThinkerTX*


                  And, FWIW, when I am in an actively-practicing Christian’s home (and I’m in Texas, so this happens a lot), I never object when they automatically launch into a let’s-hold-hands-while-we-say-grace thing. I hold my plate-mates’ hands and stay silent, like a good guest.

                  But can you imagine the uproar if I were to say to my Christian friends in their own home, “Hold it a minute. We all know that imaginary beings don’t exist, so I think we all ought to NOT pray.” That’s exactly what the rude dinner guest / interviewer is doing by “forcing” out-loud, communal prayers on everyone in attendance. They’re assuming everyone there believes in their sky-god and is happy to worship that sky-god in their particular way (out-loud prayer before a meal).

                  So, yes, the idea/concept of prayer is not the problem here. It’s the arrogance of assuming that everyone around you *naturally* shares your peculiar, individual belief system that is the problem. And ambushing interviewees with this is both bad form and bad business.

              4. fposte*

                To extrapolate from below, then you wouldn’t consider it rude for somebody to pray to Satan over dinner at your house?

                1. Jamie*

                  There is a really bad joke about saying grace over deviled eggs in there…but I won’t look for it because when I have a headache and am this tired I am only amusing to me.

                  And Devil Dogs for desert. Devil’s food cake. I’ll stop – sorry.

                2. FreeThinkerTX*

                  (Replying to Jamie):

                  Deviled ham sandwiches.

                  My favorite sinful snack. ::snork:: :-D

                3. JuliB*

                  fposte – re praying to Satan: I hate answering hypotheticals because they can get so ridiculous, but felt a need to answer this. Would I think it rude? I really don’t think so. Would I be incredibly offended? Yes, and I would sever connections to that person.

                  FWIW, I was an atheist for 25 years and wouldn’t have been offended if someone started praying over a meal, even at my house while I was an atheist. I lost the contemptuous ‘sky God’ attitude after the first decade or so.

                  (You might ask whether my attitude towards someone praying to Satan isn’t the same thing. I don’t think it is because I do believe Satan is real, and have zero tolerance for any belief that affirms him. I find it odd that there are people who don’t believe in his existence since there’s so much proof in this world that he does exist, whereas there’s less evidence that God does.)

                  On the other hand, as a more traditional type Catholic I really hate holding hands in prayer. But so many people do it, I just smile, go along with it and offer it up to God.

                4. Min*

                  JuliB – Out of curiosity (honest curiosity, not snark), during the 25 years that you did not believe in the existence of any gods, did you believe in the existence of Satan?

                5. JuliB*

                  @Min, since there’s no reply link beneath the post: No – I believed in nothing non-material. My comment was aimed more at people who believe in God / Higher Being, etc. There are a lot of people that really don’t believe in the devil as an actual being. Perhaps conceptually but not as a real ‘individual’. I’m Catholic, so I am only speaking along those lines.

            2. JuliB*

              So I think I’ve learned something from all the comments on the issue of rudeness. While I still don’t personally agree, I definitely understand where many of the posters are coming from.

    3. De Minimis*

      A lot would depend on the size of the employer and their web presence. Many smaller firms/companies either don’t have websites or have sites that don’t reveal much.

      I live in the Bible Belt and this seems excessive even for here. Normally you wouldn’t see something like this unless you were working for an employer with a specific religious affiliation.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I do too. I had a phone interview once for a title firm assistant job and the employer asked me what church I went to. Just to see what would happen, I said I was Catholic. He said “Oh we have a Catholic lady in the office, and it’s fine. See, we really believe our work comes from God and we have a prayer meeting in the office every Wednesday,” etc.

        I thanked him and said I didn’t think the job would be the right fit for me. Then I reported them to the Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights office. The lady on the phone said it really did sound like a screening question.

          1. KellyK*

            Yes, I want to hear this one too.

            Vaguely related, I once had a coworker (Seventh Day Adventist, if I recall correctly) go on a long rant about the awfulness of Catholicism, apropos of nothing, in my office. I couldn’t think of a coherent response, so I simply said nothing until he went away.

            And this was in *Maryland* for pete’s sake. I have a ton of Catholic coworkers. Not that it would’ve made it okay if he was ranting about some obscure sect he was unlikely to encounter in the office, but it did up the WTF factor.

        1. Jessa*

          EH stupid thing submitted before I said anything.

          I think there needs to be a comma between chosen religion and. I don’t think chosen modifies sexual preference, but religion only. It’s a punctuation thing. I read it the other way.

          1. Min*

            Even read charitably, she did state that sexual preference has no place in the workplace. Unless she means that co-workers should never discuss their spouses’ or partners’ existence at all, I find it more than a little off-putting.

            1. Anonymous*

              It’s hard to read all that charitably since it is such a random thing to bring up in this context. She didn’t need to compare praying in an interview to anything – standing alone, her situation is already bizarre. To me, that shows it’s likely a very deeply held prejudice (since, seriously, it was totally out of left field).

              1. Cat*

                She might have been trying to head off criticism from religious conservatives by trying to say she was focusing on the behavior rather than the ideology. But I agree that the two things aren’t comparable so it’s a bad comparison.

      1. Anonymouse*

        I read that to mean you don’t discuss people’s opinion on sexual preference. Not “My SO and I went to this really great restaurant this weekend..” but more the overall debate of gay rights, if being gay is acceptable/not, etc.

        1. The Snarky B*

          Yeah but most people have a complete double standard wherein they would ask of all (incl) straight people that the politics of it not be discussed but also ask LGBTQ people that their lives not be discussed, because somehow our society has both decided that that can be called politics.

          1. Min*


            In my experience, people who state things like “sexual orientation has no place in the workplace” are often the same people who say “I’ve got nothing against gay people, but they should keep it at home and stop flaunting it.”

            1. Anonymous*

              Hooo boy, agreed. And the word “flaunting” in reference to LGBTQ folks is possibly my greatest pet peeve/rage-causer. But you’re right, that’s usually the implication. Sad.

            2. FreeThinkerTX*

              I frequently say things like, “Sexual orientation has no place in the workplace,” and what I mean is, “An employer absolutely should not consider an employee’s sexual orientation for anything.” I sure as heck don’t mean that everyone should keep quiet about their love lives. If anything, it means that everyone should feel free to discuss their SO’s without any repercussion whatsoever.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I agree. But the other way people use it, unfortunately, is to mean “I want straight people to feel free to discuss their partners, but gay people shouldn’t.” Because some people use the statement to mean that, it’s probably important to clarify which you mean.

              2. KellyK*

                “Sexual orientation isn’t relevant to work,” or “Sexual orientation has no place in employment decisions” might be better ways to phrase that.

    1. PEBCAK*

      Not only that, but straight people bring theirs into the workplace EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Every time you talk about your significant other, or a date you went on, or anything else that lets the world know you are heterosexual, you are bringing it into the workplace. I lived in (heterosexual) sin for years, and all of my coworkers knew it. You don’t then get to turn around and say “it doesn’t belong in the workplace” as soon as someone mentions a same-sex date/partner/spouse.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        YES THIS OH YES.

        *straight with lots of gay friends—you attack my friends, you attack me*

      2. Judy*

        For me, I don’t care if someone talks about their same or different sex partner/ date / spouse going to dinner / movies / dancing / vacation. I just don’t really want to hear about sex from anyone.

        At two separate companies, recently divorced guys seemed to love to talk up who they met on the internet and what they did and all.sorts.of.things.I.didn’ about that. That’s what I want to ban from the workplace.

    2. Meg*

      I took it as meaning you don’t “preach” religion at work just as you don’t “preach” your opinions on sexual preference. The whole “I’m super involved in LBQT rights and if you don’t have the same views as me, then I’m going to change your mind or belittle you until you do” is VERY similar to “I’m super involved in my church and if you don’t have the same religious views as me, then I’m going to change your mind or belittle you until you do. Involvement and opinion is a private matter for a lot of people, and I agree that it’s no place for work.

      Of course, it’s different if you’re working in a organization that directly reflect those opinions, such as a Christian organization or a LBQT activist group.

      1. Anonymous*

        No, it’s really not similar. Someone may certainly view it as just as obnoxious, but there’s a huge divide between “this is my personal worldview and you must agree or I’ll never stop” and “I’m not going to silently sit by while you tell me you don’t believe I deserve equal rights under the law.”

        1. fposte*

          And if those are the two opinions being expressed, I totally agree. But that’s also a bit of a straw man, because people express all kinds of opinions on those subjects that aren’t those. It is possible for somebody to be inappropriately aggressive about rights in a workplace and for somebody to mention religious affiliation without proselytizing; it’s about the behavior, not just the belief.

          1. Cat*

            I don’t think anyone anywhere on this thread has stated or implied that people shouldn’t mention their religious affiliation at work. Of course that’s a perfectly normal thing to mention and we all work with (or are) people who mention “Oh, I was teaching Sunday School yesterday and . . .” or “Sorry, can’t go out to lunch; it’s Ramadan.” I just don’t think that’s what we’re talking about.

            1. fposte*

              Not everybody is, of course, but then this is a conversation of individuals, and there are many different things being said. I think the statement that “keeping religion out of the workplace” is requisite is actually pretty much the equivalent of saying “keeping your sexuality out of the workplace” is requisite; they’re both legitimately read as “shut up about it.”

              LGBTQ oppression is of *course* more contemporarily rampant than oppression of Christianity, and it’s not even forbidden by law in much of the U.S. But I think there’s a human tendency to disproportionately overlook or forgive our own missteps or those of people we agree with, and to act as if our own experiences of oppression mean that our behavior could never be oppressive. And I don’t think any of us get to get off the hook here.

              1. Cat*

                I don’t disagree with you in theory, but in practice, in the United States today, saying “keep your religion out of the workplace” usually means “don’t have a chaplain that browbeats your interviewees into praying.” And “keep your sexual preference out of the workplace” means “straight people can bring their dates to the office holiday party, but gay people probably shouldn’t.” Yeah, you can come up with isolated situations where the reverse occurs; it’s a big country and I’m sure somebody somewhere has been harassed in the workplace for just mentioning that they went to a church activity over the weekend. But equating the two in theory without talking about which one is actually a common everyday occurrence obscures the power dynamics at work, and is fairly damaging, I Think.

                1. Cat*

                  Okay, but unless you actually have a nexus to talk about the ones that almost never actually occur, I’m not really sure what the point is. “Don’t forget, guys, it’s also bad if you do this thing nobody does!” I realize that some people have said blanket statements like “religion should be kept out of the workplace” which could be read extremely expansively, but given the culture in which we live, I think that expansive reading is pretty unlikely to be the intended meaning unless there’s more evidence to back that up.

                2. fposte*

                  Seriously, it’s not something “nobody does.” It’s something that I, a nice atheist liberal, encounter with some frequency in my nice atheist liberal circles and that has been a frequent professional issue. There’s nothing like an assumption of unanimity to bring out people’s inappropriate impulses.

                  If this were a post about somebody being discriminated against for being gay, I wouldn’t be making this point here, because it would indeed be the kind of derailing you’re implying. But that’s not the topic, and I think it’s germane to note that while I disagree with much of what EG says here I think there’s a backlash that’s problematic as well.

            2. Chinook*

              Cat, I disagree that is perfectly normal to discuss acts of your religious life at work. I got fired less than a week after not eating at a lunch meeting. When I was asked why, I said I was fasting for religious reasons and that I was fine with my team and changed the subject. To this day, I still wonder if that was the reason I was fired out if the blue (no warning, no flags). I know mentioning it was like pouring cold water on the conversation and definitely reinforced why I rarely mention teaching Sunday School, church choir practices or even an executive council I sit on even though this things do make up a large part of my life.

              1. KellyK*

                Wow, that’s awful. Even if it’s not the reason you were fired, the fact that people acted like it was some huge issue is really inappropriate.

                What area of the country was this in, if you don’t mind my asking?

          2. Anonymous*

            But let’s be real, it’s way more common for people to express and tolerate detailed religious conversations/mentions than even minor mentions about a non-straight person’s life. Almost no one gets upset if someone mentions they joined their church choir, but plenty of straight people think it’s inappropriate to mention spending the weekend at Pride. Sure, there are plenty of variations, but none of them are on equal ground.

            1. fposte*

              Sure, it’s way more common. But I think actually oppressive conversations can actually be on “equal ground,” and that’s something that minority-majority organizations struggle with sometimes–and sometimes should but don’t.

      2. Anonymous*

        Sure, but you realize that a LGBTQ person talking about their wedding plans or pregnancy or their dates with their partner are often seen as a political stance, even when it would be normal conversation for a straight person? There are a LOT of people who would take normal conversation like that as “preaching” and that’s where the problem lies.

        1. Anonymous*

          And honestly, as I mentioned above, I would have a lot more sympathy for the OP in this regard if she had said “politics” or even “LGBTQ activists.” But instead, she specifically focused on people who actually are LGBTQ, rather than the activism behind it. That alone makes me give her comparison a MAJOR side-eye.

          1. E*

            I don’t know if this is what OP meant — probably not since usually “keep sexual orientation out of the workplace” means something specific — but my comparison for her interview would be something a lot more participatory than hearing someone talk about a partner, like people in the office asking her out repeatedly or something, which is also inappropriate, particularly for an interview. I should note that I think asking anyone out repeated in a workplace is inappropriate whether you share a sexual orientation or not.

            I’m not religious and I have no issues hearing mention people’s religions at work. If somebody needed to take a day off for religious reasons or was fasting I would not care. I would care enormously if they tried to get me to join in. I have a coworker who is very religious an currently taking a class at her church on evangelizing, and apparently she used to take that message to the workplace a bit more but got asked to stop. I have no issues hearing about her class, but I don’t want any attempts of evangelization of me.

            I’d like to think that I’m in a workplace where people can freely talk about their partners and attending Pride and such without worrying about judgment. That’s so much not pushing beliefs on others in the way that shared workplace prayer is. (Maybe it’s pushing acceptance but I will admit that I don’t have an issue with that).

        2. Kelly L.*

          Or it’s seen as “talking about sex.” I’ve seen people try to argue “She’s rubbing her sex life in our faces!” when the actual comment was something like “My girlfriend and I went to Six Flags last weekend.” It’s no more “talking about sex” than if she said the same sentence but with a boyfriend substituted, it’s just that the listener has a dirty mind and can’t envision a gay couple without picturing them sexing it up.

    3. Joey*

      See I had a friend who I thought was gay tell me differently. He said for some people it is a choice. He said he can choose to be gay or straight. I said ignorantly “that makes you bi, no?” He said he has both gay and straight desires and thoughts (not bi), and can choose to be one or the other. He said some people call that bi, but a lot of folks in the lgbt community consider it a personal choice.

      1. Anonymous*

        I wouldn’t say “a lot of folks.” There’s a tiny “gay by choice” community, but when you ask them to break it down, they all say they are attracted to X and Y but choose to only *act* on X — and choosing your sexual/romantic activity is entirely different and separate from choosing your orientation (just like people who are gay but are in the closet and choose to date the opposite sex aren’t actually choosing to be straight).

        1. Joey*

          Sort of. I think his point was that in a truly free society he should have the freedom to choose how he wants to define himself whenever he wants.

          1. Anon*

            That makes sense. Plus, a friend of mine says the ‘born that way’ movement does have some potentially problematic issues. For instance, hypothetically, let’s say someday we are able to isolate a “gay gene” (or epigenetic mechanisms or whatever) as some people talk about. What if someone who doesn’t have that marker (or whatever biological indicator it could be) still identifies as LGBTQ? Would that make them less legitimate? It really shouldn’t matter.

            1. Anonymous*

              My bigger concern with that is if we isolate a gay gene, what if it can be detected in utero and selectively aborted? Whether someone is “legitimate” ranks way below that for me. However, it being biological doesn’t mean there’s a single gene. But, there are problems with completely doing away with “born this way” too. Reparation therapy is still a thing — and still a thing forced on children, and saying it can’t be changed (which is supported with research) does assist in fighting back against that. Neither approach is perfect!

              1. Anonymous*

                Oh, definitely! Shades of gray. All I meant was that Joey’s friend has the right to self-define his sexuality in any way he wants, just as another LGBTQ person can self-define as it not even being remotely a choice. The law should treat them equally, as the law should treat all human beings.

            2. Jessa*

              Not any more than someone who does not have BRCA1 and has breast cancer (a whole huge LOT of women, btw.)

              1. fposte*

                I think it’s different, though, because a fair amount of LGBTQ civil rights discourse has been based on the notion that it’s not a choice and discussing the likelihood of genetic predisposition as an illustration of that fact. I actually think it would be good to get past the reductive choice vs. gene dichotomy, but it’s part of political identity in a way that it’s not for people with breast cancer.

            3. E*

              I think the issue is that if you say “they can’t help it, they’re born that” it implies that we only tolerate it for that reason. That statement may be completely true — many people are born that way and can’t change it without repressing themselves — but even if it were not true, there’s nothing wrong with being LGBT. So I think people just have to be careful about the tone with that argument.

              I saw some truly sad comments on an article once about Glee of all things saying that the show isn’t accepting of people who choose to turn their backs on their homosexual desires and seek reparative therapy to do what’s right. I think the comments were by one such person.

              1. TychaBrahe*

                Seen on Facebook: “What if being gay is a choice? People choose to be assholes, and we let *them* get married.”

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The question of whether it’s a choice or not is sort of irrelevant, though. Who cares if it’s a choice or not? It shouldn’t have any impact on how people are treated.

            The implication of “it’s a choice” is so often “and so therefore they should just choose differently, and we can blame them if they don’t,” which is of course ridiculous and offensive.

      2. Anonymous*

        Well, his point may have been that it shouldn’t matter whether it’s a choice or if they were ‘born that way,’ so to speak. The government should stay out of it regardless.

        But that’s a wholly individual thing and also still a fairly fringe ideology. It’s not really up to random straight people to declare all LGBTQ people as making a choice or not.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Well here’s the thing. Sexuality is not black or white by any means. As a Victorian lady once said, “I don’t care what people do as long as they don’t frighten the horses.” :)

        1. Chinook*

          Elizabeth West posted: “As a Victorian lady once said, “I don’t care what people do as long as they don’t frighten the horses.” :)”

          Does that mean they should give the horse a bouquet of carrots first? Or just cool sweet nothings in their ears?

  4. V*

    I don’t doubt that this is how they normally function. I’m not saying they pray only during interviews. My point is that they might incorporate their prayer in the interview as a means to weed out candidates by showing them the strong religious presence in the office.

    While interviews shouldn’t be one sided, there is a major power imbalance, especially when someone is unemployed or knows they soon will be. The power imbalance (and general desire to be polite) can make it difficult for someone to decline any request of the interviewer.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      I’m tired of hearing this. No one wants to work at a place where they have to hide major parts of themselves in order to get along. Yes, people need jobs. But a job in the wrong company is a disaster. And it is a lot harder getting a job after you’ve been fire than if you’d been unemployed longer.

      I’m not saying be fussy. But you shouldn’t try to work at a company where you can’t be who you are. It’s unfair to the company (bad culture fit) and it will make you miserable.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, of course. But in the interview itself, in the moment, many people have trouble speaking up and saying, “I’m uncomfortable with this.” They can still have the presence of mind to decline the job later, but in the moment many people will not speak up. And that’s why you don’t put people in situations that loads of people would be uncomfortable with when there’s a major power imbalance.

        1. Neeta*

          I can see myself reacting the same way as the OP. In an interview, where I’m supposed to impress the hiring manager, I’d probably suck it up and just murmur something prayer-like.

          If they call, I’d definitely decline to move further with this company.

          1. Yvi*

            I’d probably do the same and I am one of these “new Atheists”.

            However, I am also not in the US and my country is pretty nonreligious, so I’ll likely never encounter this.

              1. Yvi*

                Oh, I get that. Still, my country is over a third nonreligious, so that situation seems even less likely than in the US.

        2. bo bessi*

          Even minus the power imbalance a lot of people wouldn’t speak up. I’m not religious and have sat through prayers of friends before meals and whatnot simply because it feels more polite than asking them not to. It doesn’t bother me when other people pray, so why make it into a big deal that will likely make them uncomfortable? I’m pretty laid back though and wouldn’t really consider it offensive though.

          1. bo bessi*

            That’s not to say it’s ok in an interview though. Definitely NOT ok in that setting.

      2. Ash*

        How do you not see how weird your stance is? No one is saying a person can’t be a Christian, but would you appreciate it if you worked in a predominantely-Muslim or Hindi organization and they wanted you to pray several times with them? Maybe you should just keep your religion to yourself, and others can keep it to themselves. I am an atheist, but I don’t go around my workplace talking about how terrible religion is or how much I dislike the idea that there is a god/many gods. But according do you, my behavior would be acceptable because it is part of who I am and I should be allowed to behave any way I want accordingly.

        1. Heather*

          Yep. The “hiding major parts of oneself” is bad, unless the major part is that you’re gay, atheist, Muslim, etc. Then suddenly you’re stomping on the Christians’ right to be themselves, simply by mentioning that you’re not Christian. (Obviously, this doesn’t apply to all Christians – only the ones who have a persecution complex. Thankfully, most of the ones I know in real life don’t.)

          1. Ash*

            [Somewhat off-topic but…] To me personally I think it’s particularly sad for a person to have one thing and one things only to define themselves. If you follow a particular faith, or are LGBTQ, or are a hipster, or whatever, if that’s the only single thing that defines you as a person, that’s pretty pathetic. I just feel like having one, all-consuming thing in your life is A Bad Thing, especially if it means that it’s all you talk about at work, at home, with your friends, nights out on the town, when you meet new people, etc.

        2. Jennifer O*

          I was thinking something along these lines.  

          I suspect that those who don’t see a problem with this are themselves Christians. They’re imagining themselves in this situation and, whether very religious or not, and not finding it offensive or bothersome because they are used to Christian environments.

          I think the comparison to sexual orientation isn’t a good comparison (for myriad reasons).

          What if the comparison instead were that of another religion?  What if this were a firm that had a rabbi or imam on staff? Would those who defend the three Christian prayers be as accepting of three Jewish or Islamic prayers in this setting?   Would they wish to have had advanced notice (i.e., indication in the posting)? Would they feel  comfortable saying ‘no’ to praying in the interview if it were a prayer outside their religious tradition?  

          1. Chinook*

            As I said earlier, I, as a Christian, would have no problem if the chaplain was an Iman or a Rabbi. In fact, I tutored an Iman in English as a Second Language and we had great discussions about faith because, when he told me what he was, I told him what I was and we were both open to the discussion. Maybe we were both liberal in our thoughts or confident in our beliefs (or a combination of both), but being openly religious in no way affected our relationship.

              1. JuliB*

                That would mean that I would walk out of the office immediately, whereas with a Rabbi or Imam, or chaplain (whatever that really means), I wouldn’t. That said, I’d rather know immediately that I was interacting with a Satanist.

    2. Jamie*

      My point is that they might incorporate their prayer in the interview as a means to weed out candidates by showing them the strong religious presence in the office

      I think this is a fair assumption, I just think it sucks that the weeding out process is after candidates go to the trouble of preparing for an interview, perhaps using PTO, etc. put it in the ad and let people self select before they get their interview suit pressed for this.

  5. jesicka309*

    OP # 2 I’ve been there with the boring retail jobs.
    What can help is perhaps using your extensive experience in the store to your advantage – are there any processes you can streamline? Any procedures that could use documenting? Depending on your chosen degree, can you frame your retail work in a way that matches your degree? Eg. If you’re studying marketing, evaluating the Point of Sale displays? Or if you’re in accounting, look at the way card/receipt/returns are handled? Sometimes framing your boirng job a different way that alilgns with your interests can help with your motivation, or at least make you feel like you’re still moving towards your long term goals.
    Good luck! :)

    1. Lindsay J*

      If she is working at a small business then she might have these opportunities. However, if she is working for a large corporation like Sears, Walmart, etc, there probably isn’t.

      Most of these things are handled by corporate and the stores are sent explicit instructions as to how the signage is supposed to be, how merchandise is to be arranged, training documents are preapproved and must be uniform in each store, the procedures are all pretty much set and near unchangeable, etc.

      (This is one of the reasons I’ve found I’d rather work for a small, newly opened business, though. I much prefer when I feel like my input is valuable or at least that it might be feasible for my suggestions to be implemented.)

      1. Emily*

        It may be true that there isn’t a lot of opportunity to make real changes, and that fact alone can be frustrating and disheartening, but those kinds of things are worth thinking about, if only to keep one’s mind active. Exercising the problem solving area of her brain will keep it agile and ready for when she does start a job in her chosen field.

        Even if the OP doesn’t have the opportunity to reinvent the retail business, showing a renewed interest in the work and the success of the company probably wouldn’t hurt her reputation with management. No matter the size of the business or the likelihood that changes will be implemented, any suggestions should be framed positively, not as criticisms or complaints.

    2. AmyNYC*

      I worked retail for a few years… and after a while it can be soul sucking. I found it helpful to make some things into a game, challenge your coworkers to see how many shirts you can fold in a minute, pitch in 5 bucks each the the one with the best sales at the end of the day gets a giftcard, or if you’re not on the floor listen to great Podcasts or books on tape.

      1. Emily*

        It’s so true about tricking yourself into “games” to stay productive and engaged. When I worked in retail, I was a part-timer because of my school schedule, so I knew I was never going to be promoted and that wasn’t really my goal anyway. But I turned myself into a “replenishment” machine. When the store was quiet, I’d size up everything on the shelves in the back and go out and make room for it out on the sales floor. I spent a lot of time at “the denim wall,” making sure that sizes and styles and colors were evenly stocked and sometimes making notes about reordering.

        The bar for part-time employees was pretty low, so it wasn’t too difficult to exceed expectations, and even though I’d picked up this task just to keep myself busy, my managers noticed. They even invented a “vanity title” for me—being a “Denim Specialist” didn’t pay any better, but it was a detail that I could add to my resume after graduation, and something unique and memorable that I reminded management about when I needed a reference later on down the line. And, importantly, it was something I proud of, something I’d earned. At a job where I could have felt like a bored, faceless, forgettable drone, it made me feel more productive, valued, and rewarded.

  6. -X-*

    I wonder what the OP in #6 thinks she/he would be “reporting.” The whole premise of the question seems bizarre.

    1. Sourire*

      Emotional distress? I am at about as much of a loss as you.

      I do find it a touch amusing though that the company is likely in pretty tough financial shape to be making such layoffs, but OP wants to use knowledge of said financial distress to leverage more money out of them. The whole thing is just odd.

      1. Jamie*

        That’s how I read it, emotional distress.

        And if you can get extra money because of being upset by he stuff people yammer about at work I think a lot of people would go marching not HR with invoices.

  7. -X-*

    In #7 if either or both the people to be met with were hugely apologetic I’d suggest leaving the door open to continuing. Sometimes things come up – maybe it was a scheduling mistake with the other meeting being with a key client.

    But they should be aware of how rude that is and apologize for it. If they’re not even aware, that’s a bad sign.

    1. Heather*

      This actually happened to me at my first interview for my current job – the admin screwed up the scheduling and the hiring manager was out of state at the time she told me to come in. I emailed HR when I got home and explained what happened, and they couldn’t stop apologizing. They rescheduled, and everyone I met with started out with an apology too.

  8. Jessa*

    Maybe I just don’t get it, but this comes up a lot on AAM. Why on earth would any company not be as upfront as possible about the job description and any other items that may make a candidate self select in or out. Why do they waste their time and other people’s time?

    1. Kelly O*

      Because that makes sense, Jessa.

      I may be having a Cynical Monday, but honestly I think some people try to make things as complicated as they possibly can.

      The ideal job posting would tell you about the typical daily duties of the position include, a little something about company culture (business casual, Beer Fridays, lots of prayer, Flying Spaghetti Monster, covered parking, whatever) and a salary range. Which is obviously way too simple.

      1. Jessa*

        Or at least the pre interview phone screening would. ESPECIALLY if someone has to travel to the interview. Why on earth would a company spring for hotels and travel money or even WORSE make someone waste their OWN money travelling if you could tell in a five minute call “We pray a lot, we all do triathlons, we have beer nights on Friday, we have a really kitchy weird atmosphere, we’re really conservative, whatever.”

        I mean I could then say “I don’t triathlon, but I was a really good secretary in my earlier career, I can keep records, drive the chase car for training, serve water and sports drinks…is that good? I can put on my rah rah cheer cheer personality at the finish line…” or whatever. Or “I don’t drink but I can be the company designated driver on Fridays. I’ll get everyone home okay. ”

        Or sorry, “I’m not x, thanks for considering me, hope you find someone really cool to work for you.”

        1. Kerr*

          True story: I was once asked in an interview if I would be willing to run a marathon. (Presumably, training time would not be paid.) I was very happy to NOT be offered the job.

          On the other hand, I had a phone interview where the interviewer laid out a particular aspect of their work culture right up front, and asked me if that would be a problem. It could have been, and I appreciated that they presented it as a possible issue and were direct about it.

  9. Chocolate Teapot*

    For question 1 (which perhaps should have been given its own post) I would have thought some research might have uncovered the religious character of the company (even if nothing was included on the job advert).

    1. Marmite*

      I just commented below in more detail, but I’ve been to an interview where the organisation hid very well the fact that their staff were religious. I also have a friend who interviewed recently for a job with what turned out to be a Jewish non-profit with a (small) entirely Jewish staff, but the job description mentioned nothing and their website gives no clue that they are of any religion.

  10. Yvi*

    “But then a man comes out and introduces himself as the law firm’s chaplain and proceeds to ask myself and the other two paralegals if we would like to be lead in prayer. ”

    So they are pretty much assuming all their applicants are Christian. Nice.

    For me it’s very clear that they never considered the applicants might not share their religion.

    I am an Atheist, and would be really uncomfortable participating in any kind of Christian prayer, but probably even more so with anything not Christian, because at least I was raised Christian. I can only imagine what Muslim for example would feel when asked this question.

    1. Yvi*

      (not saying every Muslim would be uncomfortable with this, but I really can’t imagine all people of other faiths being fine with encountering a chaplain at their job interview and being asked to pray like the people there are not aware other religions even exist)

      1. Chinook*

        But the chaplain asked if they wanted to be led in prayer. I am curious about what would have happened if the OP had said no.

    2. Sourire*

      As someone who identifies as agnostic, but was raised Jewish, I think I would simply have politely declined not only to pray, but to continue with the process due to issues with culture/fit.

      I also hope I would have the presence of mind (I honestly might have been so thrown I wouldn’t be thinking quite clearly) to state something to the effect of, “Oh, I wasn’t aware your firm had such strong religious roots. I don’t remember seeing anything about that in the job listing…” as a bit of a hint to them that it may be appropriate to add that.

      1. Yvi*

        Huh, okay, that was the language barrier then. I translated chaplain as a probably Catholic, but certainly Christian priest.

        1. Jamie*

          I would be shocked if this was Catholic clergy.

          As a practicing Catholic (although admittedly not the most devout) I just cannot imagine this scenario. It seems far more in keeping with the fundamentalist and evangelical Christians I know.

          1. KellyK*

            Yep, same here. Sounds much more fundamentalist/evangelical than Catholic to me too. (And that’ s having attended primarily evangelical churches as a kid and teenager, but having a bunch of Catholic family members, so some familiarity with both.)

            1. Heather*

              Definitely sounds fundie. I grew up in a hugely Catholic town (as in, I was one of only 2 non-Catholics in my grade, and never even met a Jewish kid until high school) and I never experienced any kind of religious pressure until I encountered evangelical types in college.

              Confused the hell out of me too, because I was raised as E(vangelical)LCA Lutheran and so I associated the word with the liberal, live & let live types I grew up with. Talk about culture shock…

        2. The gold digger*

          PS Priests are either Catholic or Episcopalian. Protestant clergy are pastors or ministers, usually (I think – I am a Catholic who sometimes attends Lutheran services with my husband) addressed as “Pastor Gail” or “Reverend Gary.” (Although technically, I think it is supposed to be “the reverend Gary.”)

          The more fundamentalist denominations might call the pastor “Brother Bob.”

          :) And there is your U.S. religions, Christian chapter, lesson for the day.

          1. KellyK*

            Except with Quakers, who don’t have clergy–or, really, for whom every member of a meeting is clergy.

            Chaplain, as I understand it, is a job description rather than a clergy title, and it refers to the person whose job it is to provide religious services/ministry/care to some group other than a church (a school, a hospital, a military unit, and in this case a law firm).

            For example, my college had a chaplain, who was a Protestant minister (he was called Reverend Rice, or more commonly “Rev”). Had he been of a different denomination, he would’ve been addressed as something else, (e.g., Pastor [FirstName], Father [FirstName]), but “chaplain” would still be his job title.

            1. Jamie*

              Yep – and Orthodox clergy are also priests and they aren’t Catholics or Protestants.

                1. Chinook*

                  There are Orthodox churches (like Greek, Ukranian, Russian) that are the first offshoot from the Roman Catholic Church over 1,000 years ago. It was noteworthy when Pope Francis invited the Russian Patriarch to his papal coronation mass because it was never done before.

                  There are also Ukranian Catholic and other similair rites that see the Pope as the head of their church but follow different rituals and traditions and, when Latin was used, the language used. For example, Ukranian Catholic priests can be married (as long as they marry before they become priests – no dating allowed).

                  When you see big “c” Catholic, it means they follow the leadership of the Pope and the adjective in front (Roman, Ukranian or others that I don’t know) describes the tradtions they follow.

              1. Jamie*

                Their rites are more formal and more akin to Catholicism than many protestant churches and it didn’t spring up from the protestant reformation movement.

                It’s an offshoot of the Church of England which only separated from the Catholic church because the pope wouldn’t grant one of their monarchs a divorce or something. So it was formed more for political reasons than a theological break a la Martin Luther.

                But yes, they are definitely the most catholic compatible of all the protestant sects, imo.

      2. Judy*

        Our local hospitals have chaplain offices. They have chaplains from whatever religions they seem to need in their populations. When you check in to the hospital, one of the questions is do you want a visit from a chaplain, and if so, which type, or should they contact your home church. Obviously, the local catholic hospital has a higher percentage of priests and nuns than protestant ministers or jewish rabbis.

      3. Jessa*

        I could probably tell right off if it was a Muslim or Jewish cleric though, someone religious enough to work at an office that prays that often will be wearing head gear if they are Muslim or Jewish. Even a Reform Rabbi will be wearing a kippah (yarmulke) because he or she is about to PRAY. Which you cover your head for in both Muslim and Jewish faiths.

        It’s less visually obvious which version of a Christian minister you have because even some Catholic Priests do not wear the collar and stole every single time they pray.

        A Sikh would be obvious upon entering a room, not however sure about a Hindu.

      4. Chinook*

        I was thinking that too. I have always been taught that a chaplain can be of any faith and are even used to dealing with people of different faiths. I know the Military chaplains in Canada just recently had their cap badges redesigned to reflect their ordained faith but are open to helping anyone who asks, not just the religious. In fact, DH says he saw them as the big brother you could go to for advice and counsel who also had the authority to talk to TPTB if your personal life was interfering with the job or vice versa (sort of like how we all wish HR could be).

    3. Ariancita*

      If I were, say Jewish, I’d smile brightly and say, “No thanks! But perhaps you all would like to join me for Amidah?” (No offense to any Jews, I think that’s the every day prayer.)

      But then, I can be a bit contrarian about these kinds of things.

  11. Marmite*

    #1 – I find it really annoying when companies pull shit like this. I went to a full-day interview/assessment day that required a long journey and a hotel stay for me to attend. I passed the morning assessments and went through to the formal interview process in the afternoon. It was only at the end of the interview and in an offhand manner that the interviewer revealed that they would only hire someone with a religious belief. It was part of the series of practical questions at the end, like when would you be able to start, do you have any holidays already booked, etc.

    I was so annoyed that I’d wasted time and money on attending the interview. I went back and read the job description again and there was nothing about religion in there. The stupid thing is that here organisations are allowed to discriminate based on religion if religion is part of their business. Christian charities can choose to hire only practicing Christians, etc. So, this organisation could have been up front about it but they went the opposite way, their website even talked about how they were open to members (i.e. children) of all or no religion. Turns out that doesn’t extend to staff, but that’s hidden very well.

    I don’t mind them wanting to hire someone with religious beliefs but I wish they’d made it clear before I had to waste time and money on interviewing.

    1. Sharon*

      Sometimes people consciously have a policy of one thing, but subconsciously do a different thing. This is how company cultures develop, and it all starts with the search for the holy grail, i.e. “fit”. I bet if you asked those people you interviewed with if they only hired Christians, they’d say no. They’d swear up and down that they don’t discriminate. And if you pointed out that 95% of their staff were Christian, they’d not see the issue, or they’d get offended and accuse you of being nasty. People have some pretty interesting blinders on sometimes.

      I’m reminded of a bike manufacturer I once worked for. They didn’t select only bike enthusiasts (since they hired me and it was never mentioned in the interview or job description). But you know what’s funny? 95% of the staff participated in weekend races and training rides. I was very much the odd person out because my level of bike enthusiasm was leisurely rides once a month on a bike with no clips and I could care less about titanium alloy wheels and such. They always put race results on everybody’s voicemail boxes. The assumption was just that everybody was a religious biker.

      1. Marmite*

        Nope, in this case it was a requirement that ALL employees be of a religion. So they will hire Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, whatever but not Athiest or Agnostic. They made this clear once they brought it up, they just didn’t bring it up until the end of the day long interview.

        1. Chinook*

          If they hired only religious people, did they hire followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Great White Blob? Or was it only well established religions? How about those that mix with politics like the flying yogis of Canadian politics?

          1. Marmite*

            I was tempted to tell them I follow the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but I doubt that would have led to a job offer!

          1. sunlit*

            I’m Pagan, and I too wonder if it would “count” for them. Probably not, even though I’m pretty devoted to my path.

      2. Flynn*

        That’s like my workplace! They just *assume* everyone who works at a library can read!

        *ducks impending hail of rotten fruit*

      1. PEBCAK*

        The thing is, it’s a huge waste of THEIR time, too. It just doesn’t make any business sense at all.

        1. fposte*

          That’s the thing that makes me scratch my head, in both Marmite’s case and the OP’s. Even separate from the other issues, it doesn’t speak well to an organization that they handle things so inefficiently.

        2. KellyK*


          I wonder if they’re operating from some kind of weird stereotype about evil baby-eating atheists where they just assume that if they like someone enough to hire them, that *of course* they’ll have some sort of religious beliefs. Because they mentioned it in the off-hand way toward the end of the process that other employers might mention a criminal background check or a drug screen.

          1. Rana*

            I could see that happening. One place I worked was small-town conservative, with non-Christians and liberals being not just decided minorities, but not even on most people’s radar. So I’d have co-workers making comments that made it clear that they assumed that I shared their beliefs, not realizing that some of them I not only did not, but felt personally attacked by. And these were nice, friendly people who’d have been mortified to realize they were being offensive; it was just it was so outside their everyday experience that it never even occurred to them someone who looked like them might think differently.

            (Heck, I even had one close co-worker, who knew what my spiritual and political beliefs were – and even shared some of them – and would even so reflexively apologize for another person’s liberalness when talking about them to me. As in, “she’s a liberal, but I think you’d really like her…”)

            1. fposte*

              Totally. “You’re not like most atheists.” “Aren’t I the only one you know?” “Oh. Yeah.”

            2. Marmite*

              I think this is entirely possible, but it’s odd because here in the UK being agnostic, athiest, or lapsed Christian/Catholic is very common and the default is more likely to be surprise at finding that someone is actively religious.

              From my experience of living in the US and UK, athiesm is not stereotyped here in the way it is in certain parts of the US. It’s entirely possible that the organisation I interviewed with had that mindset though.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      There is a religious organization headquarted in my city that runs a BUNCH of different businesses and also has a small university here. Their applicant criteria for the university explicitly state that they prefer to hire members, and they do not condone certain behaviors outside the workplace.

      I am so glad they warned me. Although this was obviously a church, I can’t imagine what I would have said if they weren’t, and I went through what you did. It very well could have happened with one of their other businesses, because I had to dig to find out they were affiliated.

      1. Marmite*

        That’s the thing, if they state it up front I have no problem with it. But why make applicants dig for that info?

        I see job ads all the time that state that a specific religion is required (usually for non-profits affiliated with said religion). I know the job is not for me and move on. No wasted time or resources for me or them.

        Interestingly I recently saw a job ad that made a big deal of the fact that all employees must be “committed non-smokers”. I am a non-smoker, but the fact they wanted to dictate whether or not I could indulge in a legal past-time in my own home put me off applying. If they’d brought it up off-hand at the end of an interview I’m not sure what I would have thought.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          I worked for a business once that was (and is) owned by the LDS Church. I didn’t know it going in, and they did hire non-LDS, but it was awkward at times, like when they prayed before the dinner at the Christmas (not holiday) party. When managment changed, I no longer felt welcome, so I found a different job.

        2. Jessa*

          The smoking thing is about their insurance rates. Companies that do this get a hefty discount on medical and life insurance because smokers tend to be more expensive in the long run (more medical issues, etc.) The idea is that even if you smoke outside work and do not take smoke breaks or anything else, you’re still going to cost them in sick time etc.

  12. Anonymous*

    2. How can I stay motivated at my boring retail job?

    You’re being paid to do a particular job, and it’s your responsibility to do it as well as you possibly can. If you’re at the point where you hate this job, you need to find a new one ASAP and then make the best of it while you’re still at this one.

    Happiness is a choice. You decide what attitude you’re going to have about this job. You can either love it or hate it. You know you won’t be there forever, so you can choose to make the most of it while you’re there.

    Plus, to be honest, you’re lucky to have a job at all. The job market is terrible, and lots of people would love to have a boring, repetitive, minimum wage job. Remember: the job you dislike would be someone else’s dream job.

    You’ve signed up for this. Do the best you can or get out ASAP. You owe them to do the best job you possibly can.

    And, seriously, all that’s needed is a change of attitude and you can be happy there until you leave.

    1. Heather*

      What about thinking of the money as being part of your “f u/freedom fund” that will let you have fundage as you search for that awesome post-grad job?

    2. Jubilance*

      I really hate the “you’re lucky to have a job at all” line of reasoning. It assumes that people should take ANYTHING in order to have a job, and that by wanting more (money, better fit, a job that isn’t mind-numbingly dull, etc) they are being ungrateful & are undeserving. Yes, it’s a tough job market right now and yes there may be someone out there who wants that job & is unable to get it. But don’t tell the OP that they need to suck it up cause other people don’t have a job. If that was the case, then no one would ever leave their first job – we’d all just start at the bottom & stay there forever. People want different things from their work & that’s totally fine.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        In this context, though, she’s asking for suggestions about how to motivate herself to work, and remembering that others would love to have her job could potentially help with that. It’s not that she can’t leave the job if she wants to, but she’s specifically asking for help in how to motivate herself to stay.

  13. Brooke*

    #1 – I am a Christian and even I was taken aback by this. I hate to read of situations like this where people are giving Christianity a bad name by pulling stuff like this. I’m sorry. We are not all like this. I would not want to work at such a place, because, from the way the letter read, it sounded as though they may think of themselves as somewhat above everyone else, as well as very pushy with disregard to what everyone else around them may be feeling. They definitely were way out of line with pressuring OP to pray several times without even considering what religion he/she may be. (I pray all the time, but I would be super uncomfortable with the constant public/group praying.) Honestly, as other people mentioned above, it sounds like they were possibly trying to “weed out” applicants to see who was ok with their religion and who wasn’t. In my opinion, this whole thing was extremely rude and I definitely wouldn’t return for a second interview!

    1. LisaLyn*

      Heck, I work for an expressly religious university and we don’t do this. Like, at all. So, yeah, I would be shocked and this isn’t appropriate. The bottom line for the OP is it was clear from the start that this wasn’t a good fit, but I probably wouldn’t have left the interview just because that would feel rude to me. I’ve sat through interviews when I knew — for other reasons than this — that it wasn’t going to work, so I would probably have done the same thing in this case.

    2. Coco*

      Brooke, I don’t think this makes Christians look bad. There’s no need to apologize.

      What this comes down to is a misunderstanding or a bad fit. Neither side is wrong. If a private law firm wants to be a faith based law firm it is their right.

      If the applicant is not a person of faith and wouldn’t feel comfortable in this environment, they can choose to work somewhere else.

      I seriously wonder if the OP did their due diligence on researching the company beforehand and using critical judgement (i.e. reading between the lines).

      I recently applied to a job at a small, local investment firm. It’s not a faith-based company at all. However, in the “history of the company” section on their website, it said the the founder wanted to start a company where he could “bring the principles of his faith to finance industry.”

      A single sentence like that is enough to tip most people off on the potential environment.

      Personally, I think the OP should have said “no” and just went on with the interview. I’m not a fan of the perceived stress or power dynamics of interviews (or of the workplace) when it comes to seriously held, fundamental beliefs. Saying “no” is a right we all have in almost every situation.

      There was a time when an interviewer could have offered the OP a cigarette during an interview. If he/she didn’t smoke, would the OP have felt pressured to light one up?

      1. annie*

        “However, in the “history of the company” section on their website, it said the the founder wanted to start a company where he could “bring the principles of his faith to finance industry.””

        This is an interesting point. If I ever started a company, and you asked me, I would like to think I’d say the same, that my faith had led me to start this company. (Because I’d like to start a social enterprise type of company that somehow helped people or make something better in the world.) There might be lots of people who could say that in lots of companies, from a scientist who developed a new cancer drug, to marketing person at a solar panel company, to your example above of someone who I’m guessing only invests money in socially responsible companies – they might see their work as benefiting the world and thus feel strongly it is part of how they live their life in keeping with their faith.

        BUT I don’t think inspiration necessarily means you would expect to walk in and have to pray three times to get through the interview process! Just because your mission may be inspired by faith doesn’t mean it is necessarily part of the office culture!

    3. Cara*

      100% agree. Whether or not I belonged to the same religion, I would be seriously wigged out by such a small firm having a chaplain as one of its, what, dozen or so employees? It would be a sure sign that they are going to be all up in my personal business, all the time.

      1. Jessa*

        Maybe not. I have a friend who is a nurse practitioner, she also happens to be an Independent Catholic Bishop. If someone wanted a chaplain on staff they could easily hire her as a nurse and she could help when they needed a chaplain as well. She also has an MBA and a PhD in nutrition.

        It’s not that hard to have someone who is a lawyer or even a secretary who also has a religious role. So your chaplain could easily be a second duty for someone who works there as opposed to someone hired to do NOTHING but be a chaplain.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          When I start the Chocolate Teapot Company, it will have a chaplain, but it will be a chaplain of desserts. He/she will keep a small shrine to various dessert items, will pray with you for the return of discontinued dessert treats, and will facilitate your worship of cookie butter / Kit Kats / whatever your dessert leanings dictate.

          1. Joey*

            Ha! And I’d bet people would still have a problem with the inclusion of the word “chaplain”.

  14. EnnVeeEl*

    #1: And after all that, why did I rightfully assume they would offer a really low, crappy salary?

    The non-negotiable, not-even-living-wage salary is reason enough to cross them off your list. There is nothing stated that makes working there the least bit attractive.

    1. Heather*

      Right? Like the people who leave their waiter a little card about religion instead of a tip.

      1. Jamie*

        Or the little pamphlets people pass out on Halloween instead of candy. If there isn’t a mini-Almond Joy taped to it than it isn’t a trick or a treat its just prosthelytizing.

        (Although a Milky Way or Mounds would work, too)

        If you’re opposed to a custom then by all means don’t participate…but don’t hijack it for your own agenda.


        1. The gold digger*

          When my husband was running for office last fall, he wanted to hand out campaign literature with the Halloween candy.

          I think I convinced him that was not a good idea.

          1. KellyK*

            Good for you. That’s a terrible idea. If he’d wanted to get custom-printed candy bars with just his name or logo, that would’ve been cute, though.

  15. 7*

    So many people are looking to be “fulfilled” on the job. Early into your career, the paycheck is your fulfillment. You do your job, they cut you a check so you can survive. As your career grows, you’ll pick up new skill sets/experience and may be in a better position to search for careers that offer more than a paycheck, i.e., you might actually love what you do all day.

    In my experience as a consumer, retail has bad customer service. Maybe you can make your job more rewarding by providing the BEST service experience. Service is normally so subpar that when someone seems to really want to provide good service, it stands out. Who knows, you may change someone’s view of your stores service.

    Every job isn’t going to come with challenging tasks or rewards. Be a great employee and go from there.

  16. Just a Reader*

    #7 the first interviewer may have deemed the LW not a fit based on that conversation and told the hiring manager not to waste his time. this happened a lot at my last company. “He’s stuck in a meeting, we’ll be in touch, bye!”

    1. T-riffic*

      That’s still a pretty crappy thing to do, though. If it is common practice that the first interviewer can make that kind of call on an applicant before the second interviewer even sees them, then those interviews should be scheduled for different days. And it should be clear that a first interview does not necessarily lead to a second interview.

      1. Anonymous*

        Or at least, when scheduling, tell the applicant something like, “You’ll meet with Charles, our HR director, and then if she’s free at that time perhaps chat with Natalie, our manager of tea cozies.” That way it doesn’t feel like a slap in the face if the interview with the second person gets nixed.

  17. Lily in NYC*

    I’m not so sure I agree with #6 (canceled interview). That happened to me with my current job (where I’ve been for 9 years now). I showed up for my final intervew and two seconds later the boss that was going to interview me got called upstairs because our Deputy Mayor showed up (he is our uber-boss). What was she supposed to do – say “Sorry Mr Dep. Mayor, I am interviewing for an assistant so you can just wait until I’m finished”? They called me back later that afternoon, I went in, and they offered me the job. I’m so glad I didn’t turn them down when they called me to come back, because this has been a great place to work.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Oops, I meant # 7 above, not #6. But #6 made me laugh – I can only imagine going to HR and trying to leverage the “trauma” of hearing about layoffs.

    2. Anonymous*

      There are times when an urgent meeting could trump an interview. But in that case, the person called away should alert someone to explain things to the candidate, that someone should apologize profusely to the candidate, (giving a detail or two if it’s not private, e.g. “The CFO called her away suddenly to an emergency meeting”) and the company then should promptly reach out to reschedule. It sounds instead like none of that happened.

      1. KellyK*

        Definitely. There are absolutely cases where you would have to cancel on an interviewee, but they should be rare, and you should apologize.

  18. V*

    OP#2… Is there another store in your area you can transfer to? Seven years is a LONG TIME at any retail job. Perhaps you just need a change of scenery.

    As for everyone saying she should do a good job because she’s getting paid. Yes, she should, but I think the retailers that pay offensively low wages have no one to blame but themselves when their employees feel like this. You could have someone who has a great work ethic, but doesn’t care because they know if they do, they are only making someone else rich.

    If you only pay $8/ hour, you will only get $8/hour worth of work out of someone and you can’t expect much more.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But you really can, because plenty of people will give it, so if an employee isn’t, there’s no reason not to replace them with someone who will.

      1. Ariancita*

        Funnily enough, I had a boss tell me this once, when I was very young. I worked as an office assistant and always finished my tasks fairly quickly. I’d always ask for more to do, and she would sometimes respond, “Just relax. We don’t pay you enough to work so hard. ” :)

  19. OliviaNOPE*

    Oh, Lordy. If #1 had showed up and it was a Muslim or Jewish law firm andwas asked to praise Allah while facing Mecca, or given a prayer shawl and a yarmalke to put on, this would be a no brainer for Engineer Girl and others. But since it’s Christianity everyone is supposed to think it’s no big deal. Newsflash: although the majority of Americans are Christians, there are still a lot of people who are not. Many people are atheists or agnostic, and I’m guessing even many Christians would not want to mix religion and work this way. The fact that this law firm is so clueless is a huge red flag. Even if you were of the same beliefs, this should be a big turn off.

    1. LisaLyn*

      Yeah, that’s the point, AFAIK. And I really think springing that on an interviewee without prior warning is a dick move.

  20. Beth*

    The unknown about #1 is what would have happened should the OP have said “No, I am not comfortable praying.” We are all assuming that would have been a deal breaker for the employer, but we really do not know. Our Constitution gives us freedom OF religion not freedom FROM religion. As AAM has said many times, it’s only discriminatory if it’s used against you in an employment decision. I don’t pray before every meeting but I’m not bothered by those who do. I’m not Muslim but I’d have no problem with a coworker who took a prayer rug out 5 times a day to pray. Seems like the only thing we are not tolerant of is our intolerance. That, to me, is more discriminatory.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Actually, there are lots of other possibilities for violating the law here aside from just not hiring her. If the employer is big enough to be covered by the federal law (15 employees or more), then the conduct could potentially be religious harassment if she were working there. Religious harassment in violation of Title VII includes subjecting employees to unwelcome statements or conduct based on religion if it’s severe or pervasive. The EEOC says, “Religious expression that is repeatedly directed at an employee can become severe or pervasive, whether or not the content is intended to be insulting or abusive. Thus, for example, persistently reiterating atheist views to a religious employee who has asked that this conduct stop can create a hostile environment.”

      1. Beth*

        Again, I think this makes assumptions. OP never said “no.” We are assuming that she would be repeatedly asked even if she said “no.” I don’t pray at my desk but I have no problem if my Christian, Jewish or Muslim coworkers pray at their desks. If that is considered “subjecting” someone to religion, I conversely argue that not being allowed to pray at my desk is subjecting me to someone elses’ beliefs and therefore harassment. How is it that it has become OK to discriminate against people who are religious? We’ve gone completely to the opposite end of the spectrum and I think that is as equally unfair as discriminating against someone for lack of religious beliefs.

        1. fposte*

          No one’s suggesting that you shouldn’t be allowed to pray at your desk, though. That’s very, very different from having a company chaplain lead the workplace in hourly prayers.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          My comment was responding to this statement: “As AAM has said many times, it’s only discriminatory if it’s used against you in an employment decision.” I was explaining that there are other ways in which workplace prayer can indeed be found to be discriminatory (in this case, harassment, if it meets the standard for “severe or pervasive”).

          That’s not discriminating against people who are religious; it’s ensuring that people have a workplace where they’re not subjected to constant religious messages, just like sexual harassment law protects them from being subjected to constant sexual messages.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I’m getting big red flags from this particular employer re office culture–it may be that they would have this subtle (or not so subtle) bias toward the OP if she went to work there, if she chose not to participate in the prayers. That is her right. But it seems so important to them that some people may make her uncomfortable if she didn’t participate.

        How many stories have we read here where someone who didn’t want to eat doughnuts or whatever had a coworker (or several) bug them about it incessantly? I just get the feeling this law firm would not tell the bug-ers to knock it off.

    2. Ash*

      And if you aren’t religious at all or are an atheist, wouldn’t that also cover being free of or from religion? Must everyone be religious? I don’t recall that being in the Constitution…

        1. Heather*

          But then it should go the other way as well. I can assure you that the evangelical types who constantly bring up their religion because it’s “who they are” are NOT okay with atheists, agnostics, or non-Christians doing the same thing.

          1. Ash*

            Thank you, that’s exactly what I wanted to say. Why is it fair for Christians (or any other religion) to push their religion on me because it’s a part of their life, but I can’t discuss the fact that religion isn’t a part of mine because that would be oppressive to them?

            1. Chinook*

              And this is why, as a Christian, I cringe when others Christians get pushy. We are not all the same but we are painted by the same brush based on what are more vocal sisters and brothers do, even if, ironically, they also believe that I would go to he’ll because I am not their particular flavourful. It is these evangelical types that make many others stay in the closet about our beliefs out of fear for being labeled “one of them.”

              1. Ash*

                There’s a difference between having outward/visible signs of believing in a specific faith and mentioning going to church/temple/synagogue, or whatever, and actively making others pray with you, quoting scripture at people, talking down to others because of their faith (or lack thereof), etc. (these things have all happened to me at work), and I think a lot of people don’t understand that. I as an atheist have to “stay in the closet” as well because I don’t want my religious co-workers to mistreat me because I don’t share their beliefs. I can’t say that I am sympathetic towards a member of the majority for having to boo hoo hide their beliefs, when the same people have persecuted others time and time again for theirs.

                1. anonymous*

                  Same here, as a Pagan. I’m so far in the broom closet, you couldn’t find the broom if you tried.

                  …And you know what? It SUCKS.

                2. KellyK*

                  Yeah, there really is. It’s not “being asked to hide your faith” to be expected to be respectful of people of other, or no, religions. I’m really sorry you’ve been treated that way.

    3. kristinyc*

      Actually, it does give us freedom of AND from religion:

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

      1. Kelly O*

        Yup. We do not have a state church, and we have no head of state that is also the head of the church – see Anglicans and QE2.

      2. Rana*

        Thank you! My ability to practice and live by my spiritual and ethical beliefs is not “free” if it’s constrained by laws based on other people’s religious principles. You can’t have freedom OF without also protecting freedom FROM.

    4. Jessa*

      Even if it’s not a deal breaker for management, they’ve shown by putting this three times in an interview that it’s important enough that they’re going to subject employees to it, it’s going to end up uncomfortable to the ones who don’t want to do it.

      And they may be perfectly fine with it, but that’s not the way to find out if people are okay with it. Springing them on it like that.

      They may genuinely not care if you want to pray. But want you to not be annoyed/uncomfortable, etc. when they do. But that’s not the way to find that out. You ask. You explain the culture to people and say “look, we pray a lot. We don’t care if you do or don’t but you’re gonna see this. Please understand this.”

    5. Laura L*

      Well, technically, the constitution grants freedom from religion. If I choose to not be religious, the government can’t make me be religious. Ergo, I’m free from religion. :-)

  21. Anonymous*

    #4 I do tend to use these practices, and actually, it’s out of respect for everyone’s time. Just as Allison said, we do like to make sure the salaries are aligned before requiring a lot of your time. Secondly, again, just as Allison said, we can assume that you have read the posting and have reasearched the company. We don’t want to start the conversation all about us–the interview should be mostly about you, your experience, and what you’d like to tell us. Then, once we’ve got that completed, then we can discuss the position and company further.

  22. Lore*

    Re #7: I once had a situation where I scheduled an interview, and it was confirmed by the recruiter the day before. Then I arrived at the interview to find the person I was meeting was not at her desk, her assistant was out sick, and the recruiter had left for vacation. The poor receptionist had no idea where the interviewer was, and kept thinking perhaps she was late back from lunch, so I sat around for about 45 minutes before finally leaving voicemails for the interviewer and the recruiter in bafflement. The interviewer called me later that day–she had asked the recruiter to reschedule days earlier, the recruiter had dropped the ball, and the assistant being out was just bad luck. Interviewer and assistant were both super-apologetic, but the recruiter never said a word of apology when she called me to reschedule, or even acknowledged that the situation had occurred. It had been a job I really wanted prior to that, but that did kind of sour me. (And of course, it turned out to be a place that never tells you whether you got the job or not; I only found out I hadn’t because someone I slightly knew got it!)

  23. A-a-anonymous*

    To #2 :
    Okay, seven years is a super long time in a retail job, so you’ve probably already thought of this. But when I was grinding away in retail, one of the ways I got through it was to play little games with myself — like, I’m going to fold this entire trashed table of shirts in 15 minutes or less (when I knew that was a kind of lofty goal). Or, I’m going to set this display to standards AND size everything on the racks before my manager gets back to work. Or even things like I’m going to ask fifty people today if they need help before they approach me.

    Also, I know that you mentioned that your managerial prospects have been hampered by your availability, but are there maybe other things you could take ownership of? I became the person who did a weekly display at my store because, well, I was willing to do it and did a good job. I got reeeeaaaaally good at it, and it let me feel like I had a project to do for at least one shift a week. Is there stuff nobody else wants to do that you could just kind of take over?

    1. Rana*

      That’s really great advice. The trick with boring jobs (and tasks) is that you have to get creative about making them interesting. Where were the clothes made? Can I attach the labels in exactly the same spot each time? Which brands of shoes come in cool boxes? What kind of person buys this brand of shirts? Are there times of day that are busier than others? Why might that be? What happens if I try doing this job with my non-dominant hand?

      Obviously, you’d probably be best off focusing on things that actually help you do the job better, and which can get you positive notice, but even little stupid things can make it more interesting if you work at it.

    2. T-riffic*

      This made me laugh a little because I would do the opposite: seeing how long I could stretch out the simplest tasks. Don’t be like me, OP.

    3. Jane*

      During my admin internship, I would say the alphabet in French to make alphabetizing more interesting. Or even try to figure out how to write out numbers in roman numerals.

  24. Another Reader*

    #2 — How to stay motivated at a boring job can be tough, but you could 1) ask the manager for feedback on what they would like to have you do specifically when you have time available on your shifts and work on that, 2) there’s a reason you want to keep working there right? Focus on that positive aspect — $$, reference, whatever. 3) when you have a minute, look for what you’ve learned/gained and could present to someone in the future — time management, customer service, whatever to help yourself stay motivated. Good luck!

  25. Min*

    #6 – I agree with Alison that you are not entitled to any compensation and that it’s a good thing to get a “head’s up” that your job may be at risk, but I understand the frustration you would feel hearing your job being discussed nonchalantly like that and I’m sorry you’re having to listen to it.

    I do hope that you’re using this advance notice to get a head start on your job search. Good luck!

  26. Joey*

    I don’t understand for profit faith based organizations. I haven’t seen any that operate on a higher moral ground than other businesses. The only real difference I’ve noticed is the way they market themselves.

    1. KellyK*

      I think it’s a cultural thing—wanting to create a work culture that meshes with your beliefs and wanting to feel like your business is a calling and not just a way to make money.

      I have seen a couple religious businesses that I feel exemplify their religious values. My mechanic is an example–right after I’d had a bunch of massive repairs done on my car, my AC stopped working and I took it in again. It was a simple fix, and they didn’t charge for it at all. I would’ve expected to have paid $25 or $50 for the labor, so I was thrilled to get a bill with a big $0 on it.

      That’s not to say that a non-religious mechanic might not have done the same thing, or that they were specifically cutting me a break for religious or moral reasons, rather than just to keep a good customer happy. But, I get the impression from them that they take the religious associations of their company seriously.

      1. FreeThinkerTX*

        And to that I can add (counter?) that my local non-faith-based mechanics did the same thing for me when repairing the air conditioning on my car. I went into them three times for the same thing (A/C not working). They thought they’d fixed it the first two times, and had charged me about three hundred dollars. It turned out they were wrong, and the fix was actually over two thousand dollars. But because they’d misdiagnosed it the first two times, they fixed it for free on the third – eating those two thousand dollars.

        People are inherently good and moral; it has nothing to do with religion. [As I and millions of other atheists demonstrate every single day. I am a small business owner and operate only at the highest levels of morality and customer satisfaction. If they’re not happy, I’m not happy. I believe with every fiber in my being in doing the right thing every day in every action. Or, as my email sig line says, “Achieving morality without any invisible means of support.”]

  27. TheSnarkyB*

    Hey guys,
    This might be a silly comment, but.. I’m off work this week and so I got to be one of the first posters here and watch all of the comments and arguments (in the legal sense, not the fighting sense) evolve.
    All week/month, I’ve been dealing with people who don’t even know how to construct a sentence or an email, let alone work appropriately with me when I need them to.
    So.. having been able to watch the commentariat here have such coherent and (for the most part) respectful points on two very sensitive topics (and I have experienced discrimination as an atheist and as a non-straight person) has meant a lot and I’m kinda at home tearing up over it.
    I love this site and the commentariat.
    That is all :)

    1. Chinook*

      SnarkyB, your comment is not silly. Like you, I appreciate how articulate and respectful this discussion is. In fact, I wish AAM could by psychic enough to know which questions would spark these so she could limit them to one a day so I could feel like I read her other posts too. I have spent the last 2 hours reading and commenting on this one (it is a holiday up here in Canada) and not even looked at any others yet.

        1. TheSnarkyB*

          and sex! Does anyone else regularly talk about this blog and immediately reference the “My coworker is a prostitute on her lunch breaks” post?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I do :)

            My standard spiel about the blog has often been, “It’s a workplace advice column where I answer letters about everything from how to ask for a raise to dealing with a crazy boss to what to do if your coworker is prostituting herself out of your office bathroom.”

            1. fposte*

              As I recall, the amusing thing there was the OP didn’t really care about the actual activity–she was just annoyed at having to pick up her co-worker’s workload while she was, uh, busy.

            2. Elizabeth*

              Somehow, I have managed to miss this one, despite hearing about it. Can you link back to it?

    2. Windchime*

      I’ve always been impressed at how well-written the comments are on this site. It makes me suspect that most of you are much, much better educated than I!

  28. Dale*

    For the OP on the topic of working an extra day or more hours than your 40 as an exempt salaried employee……Be glad it is not Food Service.

    As a Contract Food Service manager in Health Care for over 15 years, I would love to have a 40 hr work week. Try a 50 hr week minimum and work up from there.

  29. Elizabeth West*

    #2–I second the advice of commenter 7, who said knock your socks off to give good customer service. Also, if you find you’re often at a loose end, I would ask your supervisor if there are any projects he/she would like someone to tackle. Maybe something around there needs organizing, but no one has found the time to either do it or puzzle it out.

    Most of the time, when I’ve been bored at work, it’s because everything has gotten a bit rote. A new project can stir things up a little, even if it’s only sorting papers or something.

    #7–Something could have come up last minute–the meeting could have been called by a higher up and the interviewer couldnt’ get out of it. I’d give them one more chance to reschedule, and then if they still seem disorganized, move on. Keep looking, though.

  30. Anonymous*

    For OP #2:

    Another reason to stick with your boring job is because you might need to keep it after you graduate. Job searching these days is tough and it can take a long time to find employment, whether you are a new grad or someone with many years of experience.

  31. ASHRAD*

    OP to #1 here!

    Im incredibly grateful for Alison’s response to my question, and everyone’s comments. I actually went into my interview with a “this is a 2 way street” mindset, and was absolutely shocked when the chaplain came out. I thought about declining the prayer, but apparently my backbone left and I felt completely alienated. In hindsight (and present-sight too) I really should have excused myself after the chaplain came out. FWIW, I’m openly agnostic and thought for a brief second I was on candid-camera! For those of you wondering, I tried to do some research on the firm before I went to the interview and only found a few very glowing reviews on SuperPages. No website, nothing. There were no indications at all that this was a Christian-based firm.

    I want to address the overtone of “sexual preference is a choice” in my original letter. When writing it, I tried very hard not say that it is a choice, because my personal belief is that it is NOT a choice and it is something you are born with. It’s strange to me that it came across that way in my question because I certainly didn’t mean it to! Maybe it was awkwardly written? I DO believe that work should be a neutral, no politics/religion/sexual preferences zone and that includes heterosexuals. I don’t care to hear about your wife’s cooking or your boyfriend’s baseball team at work. This is my first round of interviews straight out of college, so its possible I will find that the workplace isn’t so easily neutralized. :) I appreciate everyone’s comments and civility!

    1. Min*

      Thank you so much for coming back and clarifying. I would like to apologize for the assumptions that I made after reading your original letter.

      While I’m glad that you are an equal-opportunity “I don’t want to know about your personal life” person, I think you’ll find it hard to find a workplace where no one ever mentions anything other than work.

      Good luck in the job search!

      1. Anonymous*

        However, you should not find it hard to find a workplace where you are not asked to participate in religious activities multiple times a day. That’s non-standard.

      2. Jamie*

        This. Fwiw I tend not to care about people’s personal lives, but in spite of my my status as advanced level curmudgeon even I have made work friends and I’m interested in them as people.

        It happens.

        What I don’t get is why people care about the gender of the spouse, SO, whatever. I can be just as bored hearing about your trip to Lowe’s and what you’re doing in our garden with your wife or same sex partner. I’m an equal opportunity suppressed yawner.

        I’ve a vested interest in my husbands heterosexuality – the other umpteen billion people on the planet I can’t imagine why their orientation would be cause for concern for me. Live and let live – seems simple to me and also takes a lot less energy. It takes a lot of effort to be judgy.

  32. AngelaB*

    #1 – This was really interesting. I am a Christian, and I pray, and I would find it unexpected and uncomfortable if I entered a potential employer’s office and something similar happened to me. I am not for or against praying in the workplace, it just isnt something that you see done so intensely in an organization, especially during the interviewing process.

  33. NBB*

    So glad you wrote in OP. I sympathize with your actions as it can be very hard to be assertive in the moment, especially when you are caught off guard! And, you did nothing wrong at all.

    I do have to agree with Min above. It will be difficult to avoid all personal topics at work – it’s a huge part of small talk and getting along pleasantly with your co-workers. In some workplaces, being friendly with co-workers is the best part of the job.

  34. JCC*

    I’m a little surprised at how few of the commenters here seem to have experience with the deeply religious — I know those types are in the minority in most places, but are they really that rare? The amount of prayer described is not an unusual level for an imporant occasion, when the normal day might have four to eight prayer breaks.

    1. KellyK*

      What I think is unusual is not people being sufficiently religious that they pray that much, but employers making it such a part of their culture that they include that much prayer in work activities. I’m sure I have coworkers who pray multiple times during the workday.

      As I mentioned above, even when I was working at a Christian camp, we didn’t have daily, much less multiple times in an hour, prayers as a staff. (I’m sure the counselors prayed with the kids a lot more.) Though, when my boss met with me to let me know that she wasn’t happy with my performance, she did pray first, which felt all kinds of awkward to me.

    2. fposte*

      I think plenty of us *have* had experience with the deeply religious, which is why we find it surprising, because the deeply religious people we know/are/are related to don’t pray three times in an hour in the course of an ordinary workday. Unless you’re defining “deeply religious” circularly as “people who engage in prayer three times in an hour” and leaving out all other deeply devout people.

    3. FreeThinkerTX*

      I’m not only surprised that this amount of prayer happened during the course of a routine interview process, but that one of the lawyers (the head lawyer??) briefly sat in on the interview process and then ASKED. IF. THEY. HAD. ALREADY. PRAYED.

      What this sounds like is that The Boss is policing everyone in the workplace to make sure they have prayed the appropriate amounts of time for the appropriate occasions. And this is what bothered me most about the OP’s letter. Yes, I was thrown by a “company chaplain” and the need for prayer to start and end an interview process. But that top management needed to check in to make sure the praying was actually taking place????? Wow. That’s over the top by too many degrees to quantify.

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